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January 12, 2011

Conservationists launch scheme to save coral

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by Darren Allan

Conservationists have identified the most endangered species of coral across the globe, and have been making plans to save them.

The effort is being led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), with the organisation noting that 2010 was one of the worst years on record for coral bleaching.

ZSL scientists headed up an international workshop of coral experts and identified those which belonged to the EDGE category – Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered coral species.

The species on the edge include ones that resemble human brains, glowing tentacles, and towering furry pillars.

To get more scientific, they include the Pearl Bubble Coral, which is a favourite food of the Hawksbill turtle, and the Mushroom coral – Heliofungia Actiniformis – which supports the popcorn shrimp and at least 15 other varieties of shrimp.

Worst case predictions state that tropical coral reefs will be functionally extinct inside of 30 to 50 years, which is bad news for sea life such as these.

The EDGE conservation team is currently training scientists to carry out vital research on the ten focal species to determine the best way of preserving their life. The idea is these trained in-country conservationists will form a network of global ambassadors for the cause, and will help local communities to manage their reef resources.

Dr David Obura, Chair of the IUCN Coral Specialist Group, commented: “The EDGE concept for corals comes at a crucial time. The unique approach of EDGE helps focus effort in places where unusual corals are found, thus helping to protect coral reefs as a whole from increasing impacts of climate change and over-extraction.”

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