As reported in the 2008 State of the Coral Reef Ecosystems of Guam report, “despite some progress above-water, the health of Guam’s coral reefs continues to decline. Although Guam has made a great deal of progress in coral reef protection, monitoring, and public outreach over the past several years, many challenges still remain. Financial and human resources remain limited compared to the need, and are highly disproportionate to the value of goods and services generated by coral reefs.”
The report continues…”Present capacity will be further stretched by the planned military expansion. Global climate change poses a particularly grave and increasingly pressing threat to the vitality of Guam’s reefs. The expected increase in incidences of coral bleaching, ocean acidification and the potential for stronger storms will directly affect reef health, challenging even the most resilient reefs.”
As recommended in the report, “policy interventions must be prioritized in an economically sound manner in order to most efficiently allocate the limited financial and human resources available to coral reef managers to address pressing issues of coral reef degradation. Site-based approaches, involving strong community participation and a coordinated network of multiple organizations, could focus resources on management actions that address a spectrum of threats within a specific area. The financial and staff capacity of the resource management community must be significantly increased if current coral reef threats and threats associated with climate change and the anticipated military expansion are to be adequately addressed. Three specific priority projects recommended for immediate implementation include the use of stop-gap measures to greatly reduce soil erosion in southern Guam, the subsequent, rapid, large-scale restoration of southern watersheds, and an island-wide ban on the use of monofilament gillnets and SCUBA for spearfishing. Without a substantial reduction in the amount of sediment reaching the reef and the recovery of reef fish stocks, particularly algae-eating fishes like parrotfishes and surgeonfishes, the recovery of Guam’s degraded reefs, and the survival of even the healthiest reefs in the face of climate change is in serious question.”
The report concludes be stating that “It is clear that the ability of Guam’s reefs to cope with climate change must be enhanced significantly if productive reef systems, and the goods and services they provide, are to be available to future generations. To achieve this will require a deep commitment to the rapid, large-scale reduction in the threats currently affecting Guam’s reefs. It will also require a vastly improved understanding of reef resilience to climate change and the effective integration of the concept of resiliency into a viable, long-term coral reef management strategy.”
As you can see, there are a lot of good ideas about how to reduce or eliminate many of these threats, but a lack of capacity and, in some cases, a lack of will, prevent progress. The reasons behind the lack of capacity and collective will are complex and admittedly difficult to address. But a failure in significantly reducing threats caused by us here on Guam will greatly lower the chances that Guam’s coral reefs will be able to provide the same benefits to Guam’s populations as they once did, especially in the face of global climate change impacts, such as coral bleaching, ocean acidification, and sea level rise.
More information about recommended reef management activities on Guam will be provided in the near future.