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‘Dead Corals Don’t Make Babies’: New Great Barrier Reef Coral Growth Declined 89% After Back-to-Back Bleaching Events
A study published in Nature Wednesday found that the death of corals in 2016 and 2017 has significantly decreased the ability of new corals to grow and thrive. In 2018, there has been an 89 percent decline in the number of new corals on the reef compared to the historic record.
"Dead corals don't make babies," lead author and James Cook University professor Terry Hughes said, as BBC News reported.
The researchers, from the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Australia, were surprised by the extent of the decline in new corals. It was the first time they had observed such a decline on the reef.
"We thought the Barrier Reef was too big to fail," ARC chief investigator Andrew Baird told The New York Times, "but it's not."
Baird added that the study was the first to document the collapse of the processes of an ocean ecosystem.
Bleaching occurs when warm water forces corals to expel the algae that gives them color and nutrients. Reefs can recover from such events, but it takes about a decade. The Great Barrier Reef has suffered four since 1998 and, if greenhouse gas emissions continue at current levels, there could be two bleaching events every decade beginning in 2035.
The extent of the most recent bleaching events — covering 900 miles of reef — also made it harder for baby corals to replenish impacted coral populations, BBC News explained.
"Babies can travel over vast distances, and if one reef is knocked out, there are usually plenty of adults in another reef to provide juveniles," Baird told BBC News. "Now, the scale of mortality is such that there's nothing left to replenish the reef."
The bleaching impacted some corals more than others. New Acropora corals decreased by 93 percent. These are table-shaped corals that are responsible for the three-dimensional structure of the reef and provide habitat for species like coral trout and clown fish.
"We've always anticipated that climate change would shift the mix of coral," Hughes told National Geographic. "What's surprised us is how quickly that is now happening. It's not happening in the future. It's something that we're now measuring."
A 2018 study had provided some hope by finding that corals that survived the 2016 bleaching event were also better able to withstand the event in 2017. Researchers are trying to breed the more resilient corals, but National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Watch coordinator Mark Eakin, who was not involved in the study, told The New York Times that projects like this could not replenish the whole reef.
"Those are at the scale of a large family garden," he said, while the threat to the Great Barrier Reef could cause "the loss of an entire seascape."
Baird seemed to agree.
"We've gotten to the point now where local solutions for the reef are almost pointless―the only thing that matters is action on climate change," Baird told BBC News.
Coral bleaching at Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef in January 2016.
The Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey / Richard Vevers
- Great Barrier Reef in danger of another mass coral bleaching event ... ›
- Great Barrier Reef dying: Scientists using satellites to try and save ... ›
- What is Coral Bleaching and What Causes It - Fight For Our Reef ›
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.