EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life. 
Mentioned by:

A landmark study by Global FinPrint reveals sharks are absent on many of the world's coral reefs, indicating they are functionally extinct. Global FinPrint

By JoAnn Adkins

A landmark study by Global FinPrint reveals sharks are absent on many of the world's coral reefs, indicating they are functionally extinct — too rare to fulfill their normal role in the ecosystem.

By JoAnn Adkins

A landmark study by Global FinPrint reveals sharks are absent on many of the world’s coral reefs, indicating they are functionally extinct — too rare to fulfill their normal role in the ecosystem.


Of the 371 reefs surveyed in 58 countries, sharks were not observed on nearly 20 percent, indicating a widespread decline that has gone undocumented on this scale until now. The Global FinPrint team, led by researchers at Florida International University (FIU), also identified conservation measures that could lead to recovery of these iconic predators.

Essentially no sharks were detected on any of the reefs in the Dominican Republic, the French West Indies, Kenya, Vietnam, the Windward Dutch Antilles and Qatar. Among these, a total of only three sharks were observed during more than 800 survey hours, according to the study published today in Nature.

“While Global FinPrint results exposed a tragic loss of sharks from many of the world’s reefs, it also shows us signs of hope,” said Jody Allen, co-founder and chair of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “The data collected from the first-ever worldwide survey of sharks on coral reefs can guide meaningful, long-term conservation plans for protecting the reef sharks that remain.”

This benchmark for the status of reef sharks around the world reveals an alarming global loss of these iconic species that are important food resources, tourism attractions, and top predators on coral reefs. Their loss is due in large part to overfishing of sharks, with the single largest contributor being destructive fishing practices, such as the use of longlines and gillnets.

“Although our study shows substantial negative human impacts on reef shark populations, it’s clear the central problem exists in the intersection between high human population densities, destructive fishing practices, and poor governance,” said Demian Chapman, Global FinPrint co-lead, associate professor in FIU’s Department of Biological Sciences and researcher in the Institute of Environment. “We found that robust shark populations can exist alongside people when those people have the will, the means, and a plan to take conservation action.”

The study revealed several countries where shark conservation is working and the specific actions that can work. The best performing nations compared to the average of their region included Australia, the Bahamas, the Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, the Maldives and the United States. These nations reflect key attributes that were found to be associated with higher populations of sharks — being generally well-governed and either banning all shark fishing or having strong, science-based management limiting how many sharks can be caught.

“These nations are seeing more sharks in their waters because they have demonstrated good governance on this issue,” said Aaron MacNeil, lead author of the Global FinPrint study and associate professor at Dalhousie University. “From restricting certain gear types and setting catch limits, to national-scale bans on catches and trade, we now have a clear picture of what can be done to limit catches of reef sharks throughout the tropics.”

The FinPrint team is wrestling with the fact that conservation action on sharks alone can only go so far. Researchers are now looking at whether recovery of shark populations requires management of the wider ecosystem to ensure there are enough reef fish to feed these predators.

“Now that the survey is complete, we are also investigating how the loss of sharks can destabilize reef ecosystems,” said Mike Heithaus, Global FinPrint co-lead and dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education at Florida International University. “At a time when corals are struggling to survive in a changing climate, losing reef sharks could have dire long-term consequences for entire reef systems.”

Launched in the summer of 2015, Global FinPrint’s data were generated from baited remote underwater video stations (BRUVS) that consist of a video camera placed in front of a standard amount of bait – a “Chum Cam.” Coral reef ecosystems were surveyed with BRUVS in four key geographic regions: The Indo-Pacific, Pacific, the Western Atlantic and the Western Indian Ocean.

Over the course of four years, the team captured and analyzed more than 15,000 hours of video from surveys of 371 reefs in 58 countries, states and territories around the world. The work was conducted by hundreds of scientists, researchers, and conservationists organized by a network of collaborators from Florida International University, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Curtin University, Dalhousie University, and James Cook University.

For more information and a new global interactive data-visualized map of the Global FinPrint survey results, visit https://globalfinprint.org.

Reposted with permission from Florida International University.

Read More
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.


At elevations of 12,000 feet, some patches of cloud forest linger, blanketing the rocky ground and grasslands. Scattered across those grasslands are stones, surrounded by moss and lichens.

And hidden beneath those stones are small, brownish-grey frogs with short limbs and stout bodies. They don’t live near water, so they never begin life as tadpoles. Instead, they hatch directly out of the eggs as froglets.

These unique frogs may have existed under those stones for centuries. But they were unknown to science — until now. Alessandro Catenazzi, a Florida International University (FIU) biologist in the Institute of Environment, and a collaborative team in Perú have successfully identified the never-before-documented frog species in the Peruvian highlands and named it Phrynopus remotum.

“You can’t do anything for a species if you don’t know it exists,” Catenazzi said. “As scientists, describing and naming a species is the first step in helping to save it.”

Germán Chávez and Luis Alberto García Ayachi were conducting field work when they came across some of the frogs. At first glance, they didn’t necessarily stand out. The frogs look much like other frogs that live at high elevations where temperatures and oxygen levels are lower.

Because of a phenomenon called convergent evolution, different species will adapt in similar ways to a particular environment. Frogs that live at lower elevations — where there are trees — have disks on their fingers and toes to help them climb and move around. At higher elevations frogs don’t usually have those disks. They don’t have slim bodies. They don’t have eyes that are as big. Living in mosses or under stones, they don’t need those particular genetic adaptations.

Every frog living under those stones, though, is not the same.

Catenazzi knows this better than most. Throughout his career, he’s spent time in museums studying the world’s frogs and in the field searching for places where a deadly fungal disease has not yet hit amphibian populations. Including this latest find, he’s helped discover and name 33 new species.

In the lab, Catenazzi extracted and sequenced the DNA of the frog in question and confirmed it was, in fact, a completely unique and new species. He then constructed an evolutionary tree. Like a family tree that traces different relatives — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — the tree Catenazzi created looked at relatedness that spans hundreds of thousands to millions of years. It shows how closely the newly named species is related to other species in the same genus, Phrynopus.

Phrynopus remotum refers to the remote place the frogs are found, which can only be reached after days of traveling over roads, on horseback, along hiking trails and up the steep slopes of the mountain side.

As Catenazzi points out, though, just because this place is remote today doesn’t mean it will always remain that way. The highlands and nearby areas are threatened by the rapid expansion of human activities. Even hiding under a stone won’t save the little frog if a road is built or the land is used for agriculture.

But, now that scientists know these frogs exist, conservation can begin.

“With the knowledge of this species, we can convince people of the value of this area. We can say ‘Here is a species and it’s found nowhere else on earth,'” Catenazzi said. “That can convince people that this specific area has value and should be protected so this frog can persist.”

Reposted with permission from Florida International University.

Read More
Spinning icon while loading more posts.