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Nearly All Coral Reefs Will Disappear Over The Next 20 Years, Scientists Say

by : Cameron Frew on : 27 Feb 2020 09:48
Nearly All Coral Reefs Will Disappear Over The Next 20 Years, Scientists SayNearly All Coral Reefs Will Disappear Over The Next 20 Years, Scientists SayPixabay

Over the next two decades, around 70-90% of all coral reefs in our oceans could disappear due to the effects of warming oceans, acidic water and pollution.

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By 2100, climate change will kill nearly all of Earth’s coral reefs, scientists believe.

It’s a terrifying projection, presented at the annual Ocean Sciences Meeting last week by researchers at the University of Hawaii Manoa. At the end of the current century, viable aquatic sites for coral reefs could be in vastly short supply. Renee Setter, one of the University of Hawaii Manoa researchers, said: ‘By 2100, it’s looking quite grim.’

Bahamas Coral ReefsBahamas Coral ReefsPA Images

Corals only cover less than 1% of the planet’s surface, however they are host to more than 25% of our marine wildlife. While pollution poses numerous threats to creatures in the ocean, the recent research suggests corals are mostly at risk from emission-driven changes in their environment.

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Setter added:

Trying to clean up the beaches is great and trying to combat pollution is fantastic. We need to continue those efforts. But at the end of the day, fighting climate change is really what we need to be advocating for in order to protect corals and avoid compounded stressors.

Clownfish Coral ReefsClownfish Coral ReefsPA Images

The death of the corals isn’t a new notion. For example, the Great Barrier Reef has suffered greatly at the hands of climate change, enduring numerous ‘bleaching events’ across its 1,500-mile stretch. Back in 2016 and 2017, heatwaves killed nearly half of all corals on the reef.

Coral reefs around the globe face uncertain futures as ocean temperatures continue to climb. Warmer waters stress corals, causing them to release symbiotic algae living inside them. This turns typically vibrant-colored communities of corals white, a process called bleaching.

Bleached corals are not dead, but they are at higher risk of dying, and these bleaching events are becoming more common under climate change.

The researchers used a number of factors – sea surface temperature, wave energy, acidity of the water, pollution, and overfishing – to map out viable locations for coral restoration efforts in the coming decades. By 2045, most parts of the ocean where coral reefs exist today likely won’t be suitable, with the situation only worsening as we barrel towards 2100.

Coral reefsCoral reefsPA Images
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Setter added: ‘Honestly, most sites are out.’ There were a very small number of sites projected to be viable next century – small areas of Baja California and the Red Sea, for example. However, as they’re close to rivers, they’re not the most ideal hot-spots for conservation.

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: News, Climate Change, Coral Reefs, Global Warming, Great Barrier Reef, oceans

Credits

American Geophysical Union
  1. American Geophysical Union

    WARMING, ACIDIC OCEANS MAY NEARLY ELIMINATE CORAL REEF HABITATS BY 2100