Study links cold water shock to catastrophic coral collapse in the Eastern Pacific

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The thriving coral reefs off the coast of Isla San Pedrito, west of the Costa Rica mainland, in October 2006. Credit: Maria Marta Chavarria

Marine heatwaves brought about by climate change are known to be responsible for mass mortality on some of the planet’s most iconic coral reef systems.

However, scientists have discovered that an extreme weather event that resulted in rapid sea temperature drops of up to 10 degrees was the primary cause of a catastrophic coral die-off event.

Combined with widespread rise in , the extent of collapse of the reefs in Costa Rica’s Eastern Tropical Pacific in 2009 was abnormally high.

The two factors resulted in at some sites decreasing by between 20% and 100%, with the levels of recovery also varying significantly in the years since.

In a new study, published in the journal PeerJ, researchers say their findings demonstrate the effects of upwellings—which result in sea temperatures suddenly plummeting—are a key factor that need to be consider when trying to manage reef systems.

The research was conducted by an international team of scientists led by the University of Plymouth, working alongside partners including Raising Coral and ACG who promote coral reef conservation in Costa Rica.

They used 25 years of reef survey and sea surface temperature data to document changes in coral cover and the composition of six marginal reefs in relation to thermal highs and lows.

In doing so, they were able to paint a comprehensive picture of local coral health status and quantify the magnitude of coral population declines while also establishing the implications for effective conservation and restoration strategies.

In the study, they say the lack of overall coral recovery in the decade since the initial event indicates the region’s ecosystem had reached a tipping point.

As a result, they propose a locally tailored—but globally scalable—approach to coral reef declines that is founded in resilience-based management and restoration but also informed by coral health dynamics.

Such measures, with careful management, could enable reefs to recover and continue supporting ecological and societal ecosystem services in spite of the escalating threats posed by climatic changes.

Dr. Robert Puschendorf, Lecturer in Conservation Biology at the University of Plymouth, said: “The demise of coral reefs is very much linked to global warming and marine heatwaves. However, local and tailor-made conservation strategies might help to conserve the remaining reefs in our ocean. If we involve and improve governance on how we manage and other factors, that can decrease the extent and intensity of the harmful algal blooms. The issues of and extreme climate events are obviously something far bigger, but this study demonstrates the actions people can take in the meantime.”

More information:
Caroline Palmer et al, Cold water and harmful algal blooms linked to coral reef collapse in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, PeerJ (2022). DOI: 10.7717/peerj.14081

Journal information:

Study links cold water shock to catastrophic coral collapse in the Eastern Pacific (2022, September 29)
retrieved 30 September 2022

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Identifying links between incentives and ethical lapses

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

How and why do incentives elicit unethical behavior?

In “Incentive Effects on Ethics,” published in the Academy of Management Annals in January, ILR Associate Professor Tae Youn Park and research colleagues tackle that question.

Park, Sanghee Park of Hongik University and Bruce Barry of Vanderbilt University examined 361 articles assessing the impact of incentives on unethical behaviors in education, and for-profit businesses. By identifying what drives links between incentives and unethicality, the researchers hope their work will clarify the connection and lead to more constructive use of incentives.

They recommend ethics training, sanctions for unethical actions and decisions, and the promotion of ethical leadership to prevent illicit behavior.

Incentives are often blamed as a cause of corporate scandals such as the Wells Fargo case in which employees opened unauthorized bank and credit card accounts without customer consent, said Park, a member of ILR’s Human Resource Studies Department.

“One of the concerns is that offering extrinsic, financial incentives may pose moral risks of blending their professional sense of moral agency and responsibility with technical duties,” said Park, whose team sought to pinpoint that if incentives do, indeed, lead to unethical behaviors, then why.

Existing research on the link between incentives and unethicality varies widely—from how they conceptualize incentives and ethics to which they use, Park said. “As a result, we see many different claims and arguments regarding why incentives lead to unethical behaviors, but they are widely scattered, making it difficult to know which arguments are more or less valid, with consistent empirical support. To my knowledge, ours is the first multidisciplinary review of theories and on the linkage between incentives and unethicality.”

After looking at research across disciplines including management, psychology, economics, education and , the researchers learned:

  • The presence of incentives, such as linked with organizational profit, directly influences the odds that an individual will act unethically.
  • Incentives, especially , crowd out ethical motivations at a subconscious level.
  • Incentives may increase individuals’ tendency to frame situations as if the incentivized goals are the only relevant outcome and actively search for ways to justify potentially unethical decisions. This finding received the strongest empirical support.

The team also learned that the interplay of incentives and varies by contexts. “This implies that it is important to establish policies that monitor the ethicality of routine business decisions. For example, research shows that the association between incentives and unethicality in for-profit business settings is mitigated when organizations have certain governance and monitoring devices such as presence of a strong, independent board of directors,” Park said.

More information:
Tae-Youn Park et al, Incentive Effects on Ethics, Academy of Management Annals (2021). DOI: 10.5465/annals.2020.0251

Identifying links between incentives and ethical lapses (2022, May 18)
retrieved 19 May 2022

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