Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Palau -- Paradise in Recovery

Carl Safina's The View from Lazy Point continues to provide fodder for my teaching and for this blog, as regular readers will have noticed. Although filled with lyrical descriptions of the beauty of the world -- particularly the avian and marine -- his message is mainly bleak, as he documents so many ways in which our thoughts and actions are unraveling the biosphere on which we rely.

In his chapter on Palau, entitled Travels Solar: Rainbow's End, he provides a bit of encouragement. My experience with EarthView has made me increasingly curious about the Pacific Ocean and its islands, and I am proud that geography games have helped me to know where many of them actually are located. Having learned the basic locations, I have found myself even more eager to learn something about the many islands and island nations of the Pacific; Safina's description of the recovery of corals in Palau is an opportunity, therefore, to dive in a bit deeper. (Sorry, pun not resistible.)

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Safina had enjoyed a visit in the 1990s, and was actually reluctant to return, citing Aldo Leopold's caution about revisiting pristine places from our pasts. Given grave threats to coral reefs in general and to those of Palau in particular, his reluctance was justified. He was pleased to see, however, that combined fortune and diligence has reversed the decline in Palau's coral reefs. Given the fragility of these ecosystems and their very slow growth, the recovery is all the more remarkable.

In this video, British high school student Margaret Sheekey describes some of the factors that continue to threaten Palau's delicate reefs, providing some useful imagery along with further remedies that may be a bit facile.

More detailed analysis is available in the Palau case study from Reef Resilience. Ongoing study continues at the Palau International Coral Reef Center, whose Exhibits and Displays page provides a good introduction to the variety of biological communities found on and near the islands.

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