The state of coral reefs in the Chagos Archipelago: the last frontier

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The Khaled Bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation (KSLOF) embarked on the Global Reef Expedition (GRE) to assess the state of coral reefs around the world. This ambitious five-year scientific mission was designed to evaluate the status of the benthic and reef fish communities, assess the impact of anthropogenic and natural disturbances on coral reef ecosystems, and provide communities with the findings so they can inform marine conservation and management plans. The Global Reef Expedition mission to the Chagos Archipelago in 2015 allowed an international team of scientists to study some of the most remote and undisturbed coral reefs in the world. When the expedition began, the coral reefs in the Chagos Archipelago were stunning, with high live coral cover and an astounding abundance of fish. However, towards the end of the research mission, KSLOF scientists witnessed the beginning of what would become a catastrophic mass global bleaching event, illustrating that negative human impacts reach even the most isolated and well-protected coral reefs on Earth. The full report can be read and downloaded here.

In the middle of the Indian Ocean lies some of the last coral reef wilderness on Earth. The Chagos Archipelago, a collection of atolls, including Earth’s largest — the Great Chagos Bank — is home to reefs that have been largely undisturbed by humans for the last 50 years. Some estimates indicate the Chagos Archipelago may contain more than half of the healthy coral reefs remaining in the entire Indian Ocean. These reefs are protected both by their remote location, and in one of the world’s largest no-take marine reserves — the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) marine protected area.


Will short-term financial profit over long-term social and ecosystem loss be worth it?

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The current solutions for a carbon-free future require batteries, and batteries currently rely on rare metals such as nickel, copper, cobalt and molybdenum being extracted from the sea floor in the central Pacific Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone, threatening biodiversity and the nearby Pacific small island states. Will the short-term gain over the long-term loss be worth the trade off?

As we transition from one value system to another, past and future, old and new thinking inevitably conflict. One way to arbitrate this stand-off is to compare the financial realities of one option to another. An excellent example is deep-sea mining…


Mapping the Worldwide Holdings of the Catholic Church to Use the Land for Good

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Molly Burhans, a young activist and founder of GoodLands, is using geographic information systems (GIS) to map the worldwide holdings of the Catholic Church as an inventory of ownership and potential investment for society, health, security and ecological justice. Burhans and her group are mapping archived Vatican holdings that have never been recorded using GIS software — a revolutionary step toward committing them to ecological planning, environmental protection, climate mitigation, sustainability of natural resources, and a potential contribution to a global renaissance.

As we speculate on new forms of valuation of Nature, we can be easily intimidated by barriers to…


WORLD OCEAN FORUM is dedicated to proposals for change in ocean policy and action worldwide, linking unexpected people with unexpected ideas and offering a knowledgeable outlet for research, opinion and storytelling. What are the new technologies and sustainable solutions for the future yet to be born? We have an astonishing opportunity to think about the future we want to see for the next generation. The World Ocean Forum is a place for creativity, incubation and transformational change. If you have an essay that presents an idea for what comes next, we want to hear from you. Please limit your submission…


Ocean literacy and ocean education have the power to transform our understanding of the ocean’s contributions to human health and survival. Here we discuss the seven principles of Ocean Literacy and share some perspectives that we can use to expand those principles into a set of curricular approaches that pertain to science, climate impacts and solutions for our future.

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Since the launch of the World Ocean Observatory in 2004, I have advocated for the ocean and the fresh water continuum as a means to build awareness, engagement, and support for ocean study, sustainability, and political will. Given the state of…


Part twenty-four of the multi-part BLUEprint Series: How the Ocean Will Save Civilization

by Peter Neill, Director of the World Ocean Observatory

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Beyond diversity, marine heritage sites — and so many others that encompass our ocean world — contribute to the existence and survivability of coastal communities, whether small island nations or big city waterfronts, associated relationships with ocean resources that have been, and remain, key elements of the cultural identity of a world united, not separated, by the sea.

In any true visualization of value, we should not forget the contribution of culture, not just to the world economy, but also to the increase of our social and political wealth. So often…


And why we need more Ocean Literacy if we’re going to survive

By Peter Neill, Director, World Ocean Observatory

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Since the launch of the World Ocean Observatory in 2004, I have advocated for the ocean and the fresh water continuum as a means to build awareness, engagement, and support for ocean study, sustainability, and political will. Given the state of the ocean as devolved through the ensuing years, the challenge remains. The job is clearly not yet done. I ask this question every day:

What will it take to transform our understanding of the ocean’s myriad contributions and its complex relationship to human health and survival?

There are countless organizations, government agencies…


Why we must include the true accounting costs for the exploitation of Nature and the ways that Ecosystem Services can be easily estimated and added as we begin to calculate the true costs of all externals for inclusion in future analyses and development.

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image credit @USGS

We learn the basic structure of Nature as an arrangement of cells, gossamer walls, cleverly symmetrical, and connected unit-to-unit as building blocks from micro to macroscopic, mostly invisible but sometimes glimpsed as if an architectural detail in the construction of a cathedral.

I think of bee hives: the honeycomb a form of perfect hexagons filled like storage units by swarms of female worker bees, hoarding honey to support the queen (or the marauding bears), each cell its own deposit box of color, richness and sustenance.

Today, that beauty is seen by some in numbers: the X cells in automated balance…


Part twenty-two of the multi-part BLUEprint Series: How the Ocean Will Save Civilization

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There is a dark history of resource extraction on land and sea. New modes of thinking and new alternative energy generation technologies are leading us away from old paradigms toward new sustainable patterns of production, consumption and distribution — mapping the way toward a very different future.

For many years, we have improved our lot through technology and our ability to explore for natural resources — coal, oil, gas, iron, lead, gold, silver, copper, magnesium, and other geological remnants from below the surface of the earth — to recover and consume and drive our notion of progress through technology and…


Oceanography, marine biology, and numerous other disciplines are being brought to bear with intensity and new technology for accuracy, visualization, data collection and management, as well as multiple layers of documentation and analysis.

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A far too familiar phrase in the world ocean conversation has been: “We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about the ocean.” As with all such repetitions, they are based on an irrefutable truth of the fact that we have explored and documented to every corner of the land and have only rudimentarily done so with the other 71% of the earth: the still mysterious ocean. …

World Ocean Observatory

Dedicated to sharing information about ocean issues: climate to trade, culture to governance. The sea connects all things. Online at WorldOceanObservatory.org.

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