Finally we have a bit of good news from scientists about the long-term health and resilience of coral reefs.
Researchers from Little Cayman’s Central Caribbean Marine Institute have documented a remarkable rebound of Little Cayman’s coral reefs after massive bleaching presumably caused by warming ocean temperatures following the 1998 El Niño event.
Noting a similar recovery in a remote reef in Australia, scientists concluded that corals isolated from human activity may have a better chance of surviving projected effects of climate change.
The good news for coral, however, poses a dilemma for the Cayman Islands.
The study suggests that humans need to leave the reefs alone in order to help them thrive. Nevertheless, beautiful fish, vibrant reefs and inquisitive tourists drive much of Cayman’s economy. Thus the dilemma: The presence of visitors most likely helps our economy – but harms our reefs.
The conundrum is at the core of broader environmental conservation conflicts, namely what is a proper balance between exploiting our natural resources and protecting them?
But, for the moment, let’s embrace the good news that, if the study is correct, it appears that reef decline isn’t irreversible.