Climate Change Spells Trouble for 99 Percent of Coral Reefs, Warn Researchers

coral reefs

Coral reefs could die off by the end of the century. According to new findings, as much as 99 percent of coral reefs are affected by climate change.

Not only does the surface of the Earth become ever hotter, but a new study now shows that oceans also warm up at alarming rates. In spite of the efforts sustained by the world leaders that signed the Paris Agreement in 2015 to keel global warming to a minimum, 2016 was deemed as the hottest year since reliable records began in the 19th century, confirming the grim predictions of the scientific community. Marine life also suffers from climate change, especially coral reefs, say the researchers.

New predictions state that as much as 99 percent of coral reefs will be severely impacted by bleaching brought on by global warming. Even though losing their colors does not necessarily means the reef is dead, individuals become more prone to disease which inevitably leads to death.

Warmer water temperatures cause the coral to expel the algae that live in their tissue, ultimately turning them white, hence the bleaching effect. There are also other risk factors that may cause coral reefs to turn white, including pollution, exposure to air during low tides, storm runoff, and overexposure to sunlight.

Each year new species are being discovered that add to the 800 already identified species of reef-building corals that live in ocean waters around the globe. A massive bleaching event occurred last year in the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia that left approximately 67 percent of the coral living in shallow waters dead. Scientists from the ARC Center of Excellent for Coral Reef Studies linked the event to ocean water gradually becoming hotter.

History Repeats Itself

A similar event occurred in 1998 and 2002 when approximately 50 percent of the Great Barrier Reef experienced the same bleaching effect. Nowadays, the scientists fear that climate change could lead to yet another mass bleaching that would strike before the coral reefs have time to recover over the course of the next 10 to 15 years.

Even though the Paris Agreement is still in effect, the study points to past similar events and urges the scientific community to implement greater emissions reductions to prevent coral reefs from experiencing a severe bleaching effect from which they may never recover.

Image Source: Wikipedia

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