On September 28, 2017, Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) and the Palau Coral Reef and Island Ecosystem (P-CoRIE) Project held the 5th and last Joint Coordinating Committee (JCC5) Meeting. The P-CoRIE project is a collaborative project among PICRC, Palau Community College and the University of Ryukyus to produce scientific research to guide policy making regarding the sustainability of coral reef and island ecosystems. During the JCC5, scientists shared results from the past five years of research.
One of the studies highlighted at the meeting determined that by the year 2100 storm surges will surpass the roadways in Melekeok as a result of sea level rise. In order to act as an effective barrier to the shorelines, the reef flat at Melekeok must have at least 8% coral cover by the year 2100. As a result of Typhoons Bopha and Haiyan, coral cover on these reefs is currently at 1%, suggesting the need for further monitoring of these sites. During the meeting, researchers recommended that all efforts to promote coral growth be considered, including transplantation. While coral reefs will help reduce the height of waves hitting the shoreline, it will not help against sea-level rise, therefore an evacuation plan needs to be prepared in case of strong storms and typhoons.
Aside from rising sea levels, oceans worldwide are exposed to increasing temperatures and rising ocean acidity. Fortunately, the unusual conditions of study sites Ngeteklou and Ngerbechetei, frequently referred to as Nikko Bay, offer a glimpse of hope in the face of rising ocean temperatures. Despite high water temperatures and CO2 levels found inside the bay, a highly diverse community of corals thrive in this unique environment. P-CoRIE researchers suggest that the corals in Nikko Bay could provide refugia for coral populations as the ocean temperatures continue to rise. Additionally, researchers acknowledged that Nikko Bay hosts a high biodiversity of invertebrates. As a result of these findings, the researchers suggest these study sites become protected to benefit the bay and surrounding areas as conditions change.
As global temperatures and CO2 levels continue to rise, small island countries are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Communities must prepare for climate related events through increased monitoring and planning. While the project will end in March of 2018, PICRC and the P-CoRIE research team are committed to continuing research on Palau’s marine ecosystems in order to gather more information that can be used in ecosystem-related decision making. [/restrict]