Across Puerto Rico, scientists and communities are supporting the health of their coral reefs through coordinated education, funding and mitigation efforts. For example, on the northeastern island of Culebra, a small team of citizen scientists are carefully tending to coral nurseries just offshore and educating tourists about how to protect the marine ecosystem. Many communities in the Caribbean have been working to conserve corals for decades, and have developed systems of care that can offer a model for other regions around the world facing similar concerns about the growing pressure on corals.
Coral reefs globally are in peril, and there is a severe lack of public awareness of the role that coral species play in protecting healthy marine environments and coastal livelihoods. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that “2C of global warming would lead to the loss of 99% of the world’s tropical reefs, and even if warming is limited to 1.5C, around 70-90% of tropical reefs could disappear.”
In Puerto Rico, where the archipelago is surrounded by over 5,000 km of coral and just 11% of reefs are currently protected, corals bolster the island’s resilience against tropical storms, support the local tourism industry and enhance the health of the marine ecosystem. This story will focus on the networks of community organizations, volunteers and NGOs that are responding to the threat and working to find solutions to the local stressors that render corals vulnerable to the larger-scale environmental issues of global warming, rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification. Coral protection networks in Puerto Rico are offering a blueprint for how collective action can provide a model or a strategy for tackling difficult environmental problems, ultimately offering sustainable, community-led solutions. The report, which will incorporate educational scientific illustrations detailing the form, structure and condition of two coral species, is relevant to communities across the Caribbean working to protect their reefs, and also to the global conservation community.