Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Coral Reefs Could Be Completely Lost to the Climate Crisis by 2100, New Study Finds

Climate
A coral and fish community at the Great Barrier Reef, northeast of Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia, on Aug. 28, 2018. Francois Gohier / VWPics / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Researchers released a sobering study this week showing that all of the world's coral reefs may be lost to the climate crisis by 2100.


The bleak outlook means that restoration efforts will face Herculean challenges, according to the research presented by researchers at this week's Ocean Sciences Meeting 2020 in San Diego, California.

Rising sea temperatures, acidic water and pollution are proving too much for the reefs to handle. About 70 to 90 percent of the world's existing coral reefs are predicted to disappear in the next two decades, according to scientists from the University of Hawaii Manoa, as CNN reported.

"By 2100, it's looking quite grim," said Renee Setter, a biogeographer at the University of Hawaii Manoa in a statement.

While pollution poses a large threat to many ocean creatures, corals seem most at risk from emissions, according to the researchers.

"Trying to clean up the beaches is great and trying to combat pollution is fantastic. We need to continue those efforts," Setter said in a statement. "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."

To make their predictions, the scientists mimicked future ocean conditions like sea surface temperature, wave energy, acidity, pollution and overfishing in areas where corals are today. Looking at those models, the scientists found that most parts of the ocean will not sustain habitats for corals by 2045, and almost no suitable habitats will exist by 2100, according to CBS News.

"Honestly, most sites are out," said Setter in the statement.

Coral reefs nurture about 25 percent of marine life and support local economies worldwide. As CBS News noted, the new research is disheartening for efforts to restore corals by growing them in labs and then putting them back into the ocean. While those efforts have had a 60 percent success rate, the research suggests that lab-grown corals will not stand up to warming oceans and increased acidification.

Corals are extremely sensitive to ocean temperatures. When the temperature rises just a couple of degrees, corals experience mass bleaching, where coral turns white as it sheds the algae it relies on not only for survival, but also for its magnificent colors, as CBS News reported. Bleaching does not kill the coral, but it does weaken them, making them vulnerable to disease.

Scientists are predicting a mass bleaching within the next couple of weeks in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The reef, which is nearly the length of Italy, is undergoing heat stress right now, with patches starting to bleach. While a major widespread bleaching has not occurred yet, scientists have warned that it is likely if high ocean temperatures around the reef do not drop in the next two weeks, as The Guardian reported.

Already, temperatures across two-thirds of the reef are about two to three degrees Celsius above normal, with typical peak temperatures still one month away.

"We are down to the wire," said professor Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, according to The Guardian.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has placed the Great Barrier Reef on Alert Level 1 for the next week, meaning significant bleaching is likely, according to the Australian Broadcasting Company.

"Unfortunately we are a whisker away from bleaching disaster yet again because of global warming-driven marine heatwaves," said Shani Tager from the Australian Marine Conservation Society to the Australian Broadcasting Company.

"As underwater heatwaves threaten once again to cook our corals, our politicians must move beyond half-baked plans to tackle global warming."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pangolin hunting for ants. 2630ben / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Alexander Richard Braczkowski, Christopher O'Bryan, Duan Biggs, and Raymond Jansen

Pangolins are one of the most illegally trafficked animals on the planet and are suspected to be linked to the current coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less
Humpback whale splashing in the North West Atlantic Ocean, Massachusetts. Tim Graham / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

In a move that environmentalists warned could further imperil hundreds of endangered species and a protected habitat for the sake of profit, President Donald Trump on Friday signed a proclamation rolling back an Obama-era order and opening nearly 5,000 square miles off the coast of New England to commercial fishing.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Fresh fruits and vegetables are a healthy way to incorporate vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants into your diet.

Read More Show Less
These 19 organizations and individuals represent a small portion of the efforts underway to fight racism and inequality and to build stronger Black communities and food systems. rez-art / Getty Images

By Danielle Nierenberg

Following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, people around the United States are protesting racism, police brutality, inequality, and violence in their own communities. No matter your political affiliation, the violence by multiple police departments in this country is unacceptable.

Read More Show Less
Residents plant mangroves on the coast of West Aceh District in Indonesia on Feb. 21, 2020. Mangroves play a crucial role in stabilizing the coastline, providing protection from storms, waves and tidal erosion. Dekyon Eon / Opn Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.

Read More Show Less
UN World Oceans Day is usually an invite-only affair at the UN headquarters in New York, but this year anyone can join in by following the live stream on the UNWOD website from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. https://unworldoceansday.org/

Monday is World Oceans Day, but how can you celebrate our blue planet while social distancing?

Read More Show Less

Trending

Cryptococcus yeasts (pictured), including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas

From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.

Read More Show Less