World’s coral reefs could be lost entirely because of the onslaught of the climate crisis by 2100, a sobering study released by the researchers. The researchers who presented their research at this week’s Ocean Sciences Meeting 2020 in San Diego, noted that restoration efforts would face Herculean challenges.
According to scientists from the University of Hawaii Manoa, almost 70 to 90 percent of the world’s existing coral reefs are predicted to disappear in the next two decades, CNN reported. The reefs cannot handle acidic water, rising sea temperatures, and pollution all at the same time.
“By 2100, it’s looking quite grim,” said Renee Setter, a biogeographer at the University of Hawaii Manoa in a statement.
Pollution poses a high threat for many ocean creatures, and among them, 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.”
The scientists mimicked future ocean conditions like acidity, sea surface temperature, pollution, wave energy, and overfishing in current habitats of corals to make their predictions. As per the scientists, most parts of the ocean will not sustain habitats for corals by 2045 studying those models, and hardly any suitable habitats will exist by 2100, according to CBS News.
“Honestly, most sites are out,” said Setter in the statement.
The new research is disheartening for restoration efforts of corals, CBS News noted. Corals are grown in labs and then put back into the ocean. However, those efforts have had a 60 percent success rate. The research suggests that these lab-grown corals will not stand up to warming oceans and increased acidification. Worldwide, coral reefs nurture about one-fourth of marine life and support local economies.
As corals are susceptible to ocean temperatures, at the time of the rise in temperature of just a couple of degrees, corals experience mass bleaching. They turn white and shed the algae on which it relies for survival as well as for its magnificent colors, CBS News reported. Bleaching does not kill the coral, but they become weak and vulnerable to disease.
There is a prediction from scientists on a mass bleaching in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef within the next couple of weeks, which is nearly the length of Italy. The reef is undergoing heat stress right now, with patches starting to bleach. Although major widespread bleaching has not occurred yet, scientists have warned that if high ocean temperatures around the reef do not drop in the next two weeks, it is likely, as The Guardian reported.
The temperatures across two-thirds of the reef are already about two to three degrees Celsius above normal, with typical peak temperatures 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 (NOAA) has announced Alert Level 1 for the Great Barrier Reef for the next week, meaning there will be the possibility of significant bleaching, 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.”