State of Coral Reefs Management: Case Study of Okinawa Island, Japan

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The tropical sea temperatures have been increasing in the past 100 years (Levitus, 2000) and at least 2 to 4.5 C* water temperature rise is expected in the next century as a result of atmospheric greenhouse gases accumulation (IPCC, 2007). This rise in temperature may indirectly increase the occurrence and the magnitude of disease in organisms by altering the host susceptibility, infectious capacity and changing the distribution of the parasite organisms.

Coral reefs possess an enormous diversity of organisms and are often called the "Tropical Rain Forests under the Sea". Moreover, the reefs protect coastlines by minimizing the impact of waves caused by storms and Tsunami. However, despite their valuable features, the coral reefs are at risk due to rise in sea temperatures.

The present study assesses the status of coral reef management with focus on the Japanese island of Okinawa. We focus our assessment on coral's socio-economic values, and the efforts to lessen the impact on corals through coral research/monitoring and government initiatives. The data for this study have been gathered from the International Coral Reef Information Network (ICRIN), the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), the Coral Reef Conservation and Research Center (WWF Japan), Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) and the Japanese Ministry of Environment Annual Reports.

We suggest the establishment of the framework for sustainable resource management and conservation of corals, which are essential for the ecosystem services they provide to the society.

INTRODUCTION

Coral reefs also called "the tropical rainforests of the oceans" (Connell, 1978) provide various ecological, social and economical services. Costanza et al. (1998) report that coral reefs, with their extremely rich biodiversity, possess much greater net primary production (NPP) than the open ocean. Additionally, despite covering less than 0.2% of the ocean floor, approximately 25% of ocean species reside in the coral reefs, and as a consequence, the reefs have very high complexity (Roberts, 2003).

Despite their value and the increasing call for conservation and sustainable management by scientists, governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), coral reefs have been degrading significantly during the past several decades. This study investigates the socioeconomic values of coral reefs, their state of degradation and conservation management initiatives with particular focus on the Japanese island of Okinawa. The data for this study have been gathered from the published research articles, International Coral Reef Information Network (ICRIN), the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), the Coral Reef Conservation and Research Center (WWF Japan), recent data published by Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) and the Japanese Ministry of Environment Annual Reports.

Coral Reef Organisms

Coral reefs, resembling oases in a desert, support communities with diverse organisms in tropical and subtropical oceans (Karleskint, Tuner, & Small, 2010). The symbiosis between several species of algae, known as zooxanthellae, and the coral animal forms the coral reef ecosystem, which provides food and shelter for other marine organisms in the community. Moreover, reef structures protect costal area by minimizing the wave impact of storms and Tsunami damages as reported for many islands in Maldives in the Asian Tsunami in 2004 (Hookway, 2004). A simulation study showed that a wide barrier reef within one or two meter of the sea surface reduces the tsunami run-up on the coastline by 50%, which helps to lower the potential disaster (Kunkel, Hallberg, & Oppenheimer, 2006).

CORAL REEFS SOCIO-ECONOMIC VALUES

There has been considerable attention on the values of coral reefs, and some researchers have estimated the socio-economic values of corals in order to initiate and to enhance the conservation and restoration efforts. Cesar et al. …