“As Coral Reefs Suffer Around World, Those In French Polynesia Thrive

“In a world where warming seas, pollution, and predation are killing coral around the world, an extensive survey of French Polynesia has found a ray of hope. On some atolls there, live coral covers 70% of the reef’s surface; on others, big fish such as grouper and barracuda that have almost disappeared elsewhere are thriving.

This survey is “of great importance,” says Derek Tittensor, a marine ecologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. The findings, he says, could help scientists understand how reefs in French Polynesia and elsewhere may respond to climate change, and how they might be protected in the future.

For the past decade, the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, based in Annapolis, has been mapping the health of coral reefs around the world. In 2012 and 2013, its divers investigated 264 sites across 29 islands in French Polynesia’s four major archipelagos in the South Pacific Ocean. Working with researchers at the University of Miami in Florida, foundation scientists have fed their data into supercomputers to divine what makes coral reefs resilient—results they hope will help conservationists better manage and conserve these hot spots of biodiversity. This month, the foundation released its public report about the French Polynesia findings.”

Elizabeth Pennisi reports for Science December 16, 2019.