Climate change is killing coral reefs around the world as oceans warm – study

October 5 (Reuters) – The world’s coral reefs are under attack from climate change and more will disappear if the oceans continue to warm, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The study by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), a global data network supported by the UN, showed that 14% of the world’s coral on reefs had already been lost between 2009 and 2018, or approximately 11,700 square kilometers. , an area 2.5 times greater. the size of Grand Canyon National Park.

Corals face an “existential crisis,” scientists said, as sea surface temperatures rise. The report covered data from 40 years, 73 countries and 12,000 sites. Peaks of warming are particularly damaging, a phenomenon according to scientists is linked to climate change of human origin.

The study looked at 10 regions of coral reefs around the world and found that the loss was mainly attributed to coral bleaching, which occurs when corals, under the stress of warmer water, expel the colorful algae living in them. their fabrics, causing them to bleach. A severe bleaching episode in 1998 alone killed 8% of the world’s corals, according to the study.

The hardest hit areas are South Asia, Australia, the Pacific, East Asia, the West Indian Ocean, the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

Overfishing, unsustainable coastal development and declining water quality are other factors plaguing reefs.

“There are clearly worrying trends in coral loss, and we can expect them to continue as long as warming persists,” said Paul Hardisty, chief executive of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, in a statement. communique shared by the United Nations.

The global ocean has warmed faster over the past century than since the end of the last deglacial transition, around 11,000 years ago, says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in a landmark report in August.

While coral reefs cover less than 1% of the ocean floor, they support more than 25% of marine biodiversity, including turtles, fish and lobsters, which fuel the world’s fishing industries. Reefs are responsible for about $ 2.7 trillion a year in goods and services, including tourism, according to the report.

Scientists found, however, that there was a recovery of around 2% among coral reefs in 2019, showing that they can be resilient when given respite from the siege of factors that work against them. If the pressure is released on coral reefs, they could once again thrive within a decade to pre-1998 levels, according to the report.

Recent efforts to support coral reefs include a mitigation project off the coast of the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda called Ocean-Shot, which uses technology that mimics the design and shape of natural reefs to provide opportunities. colonization by corals and other marine species. Read more

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison in Mexico; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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