Monday, January 09, 2017

World’s Coral Reefs Are Headed for Major Die-Off

Unless we do something about greenhouse gas emissions, say bye to these incredibly important ecosystems.

Fish swim among bleached corals in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  (Credit: Paul Marshall) Click to Enlarge.
If humans do not take swift action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, annual coral bleaching events will soon decimate nearly all of the world’s coral reefs, a United Nations-backed study has found.

And as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has shown, bleaching can result in serious mortality.

The new research, published last month in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, predicts that if current trends continue, “annual severe bleaching” will impact 99 percent of the world’s reefs within the century.  On average, the yearly events would start hitting reefs in 2043.
Coral bleaching is a phenomenon in which stressed corals expel algae and turn white, often as a result of warming ocean temperatures. If not given time to recover, bleached corals can perish.

Today, reefs around the globe are being devastated by the “longest and most widespread“ bleaching event on record ― just the third global bleaching event in recorded history.  The Great Barrier Reef, for example, suffered its worst coral die-off last year.  There, 93 percent of corals were impacted by the bleaching, and some 22 percent of the reef perished. 

Often called “rainforests of the sea,” coral reefs provide habitat for more than 25 percent of the planet’s marine species and generate goods and services valued at $375 billion each year. 
Erik Solheim, head of the United Nations Environment Program, stressed the importance of using the study’s high-resolution projections, calling them a “treasure trove” for those working to protect reefs from the impacts of climate change. 

“They allow conservationists and governments to prioritize the protection of reefs that may still have time to acclimatize to our warming seas,” he said in a statement.  “The projections show us where we still have time to act before it’s too late.”

World’s Coral Reefs Are Headed for Major Die-Off

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