dr. EHWG (Erik) MeestersEnvironmental ecology and statistics; tropical marine ecology, Externe medewerker
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I have been working on coral reefs since 1987, which means I’ve seen the reefs change tremendously. Where the water was once so clear you couldn’t see it, it is now always filled with floating particles limiting the amount of light that reaches the corals on the bottom. I started my professional career on Curacao and Bonaire, but have also worked in Indonesia, Hawaii, Tahiti, and the Maldives. My main interest is in the health and recovery of coral reefs and nowadays I work mainly on the reefs of the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands and on the Saba Bank, the largest protected nature area of the Netherlands. Currently I work on coral restoration (www.rescq.eu), cyanobacteria on coral reefs, and large scale assessments. The threats that reefs face are everywhere similar though local pressures may differ from place to place. Where chronic pressures such as pollution, eutrophication, and overfishing often lead to a gradual decrease in coral health, we are now faced with unprecedented decreases in coral reef quality and health by the impacts of climate change. The return rate of hurricanes and storms appears to be on the rise and episodes of extremely warm sea water cause massive bleaching, wreaking havoc and turning flourishing reefs into graveyards overnight. My research group at Wageningen Marine Research (WMR) studies in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) the long-term development of the reefs of Bonaire and Curacao since 1973 and currently has the longest time series of data of a modern reef in the world. The work of our research group has recently received internationally recognition by awarding one of our publications with the ‘Best 2017 Paper Award’ from the editorial board of the journal Coral Reefs. The question which is often asked, is not whether coral reefs will survive, but should be whether humanity will survive. Healthy coral reefs are among the most amazing places in the world. They will survive with or without humanity (corals are on earth already 240 million years, while we are here only a meager 200 thousand years), but it is on us to decide whether we will be there to see it. If we don’t decrease our impacts on our environment we are unlikely to become as old as corals (another 239.8 million years!).