The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has informed that the Caribbean, addressing other places, might lose its coral reefs by the end of the century until there is a radical decrease in greenhouse-gas emissions.
“In the aspect of indecision, coral reefs will disappear soon,” said Leticia Carvalho, head of UNEP’s Marine and Freshwater Branch.
“People must act with evidence-based perseverance, determination and innovation to change the path for this ecosystem, which is the canary in the coal mine for climate’s effect on oceans before it’s too late,” she added.
UNEP said coral reefs are “Unbelievably important and sustain an extensive variety of marine life”.
They also shield coastlines from erosions from waves and storms, sink carbon and nitrogen, and help recycle nutrients.
“Their damage would have overwhelming consequences not only for marine life but also for over a billion people globally who benefit directly or indirectly from them,” it said. “When water temperatures increase, corals eject the vibrant microscopic algae living in their tissues.”
This phenomenon is called coral bleaching – and although bleached corals are still alive, they can recover their algae, if conditions improve.
“However, the damage puts them under amplified stressed, and if the bleaching persists, the corals die,” UNEP warned.
It said the last global bleaching event started in 2014 and prolonged well into 2017.
UNEP said it spread across the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans, and was “the longest, most persistent and disparaging coral bleaching incident ever noted.”
In its report Forecasts of Future Coral Bleaching Conditions, UNEP summaries the links between coral bleaching and climate change.
It assumes two possible scenarios: a “worst-case scenario” of the world economy severely determined by fossil fuels, and a “middle-of-the-road” wherein Caribbean and other countries overdo their current pledges to limit carbon emissions by 50%.
Under the fossil-fuel-heavy situation, the report assumes that every one of the world’s reefs will bleach by the end of the century, with yearly severe bleaching occurring on average by 2034, nine years ahead of predictions published three years ago.
“This would outline the point of no return for reefs, cooperating their ability to supply a range of ecosystem services, including food, coastal protection, medicines and recreation opportunities,” the report informs.
Should countries achieve the “middle-of-the-road” scenario, severe bleaching could be deferred by 11 years, to 2045, UNEP said.
The report’s lead author, Ruben van Hooidonk, a coral researcher with America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said “the miserable part is that the forecasts are even more terrible than before.
“We try to reduce our carbon emissions to save these reefs,” he said.
“This report explains that we need to do it even more instantly and take more action because it’s even worse than we thought.”
According to UNEP, while it is yet to precisely how corals adapt to changing temperatures, the report detects any opportunity of these adaptations pretentious between 0.25 degree Celsius and 2 degrees Celsius of warming.
It creates that every quarter degree of adaption leads to a possible seven-year suspension in projected annual bleaching.
That means corals could obtain a 30-year absolution from severe bleaching if they can familiarise to 1 degree Celsius of warming, the report says.
“However, if people keep up with its existing greenhouse-gas emissions, corals won’t last even with 2 degrees Celsius of adaptation,” it advises.
Saving the coral
Over the year, we have been searching for how people are reacting to climate change.
In June, we heard from the head of a team of researchers in Hawaii,
ground-breaking new techniques to preserve living coral, and eventually, save the biodiversity and genetic variety of coral reefs across the world.
Mary Hagedorn told UN News that one of the major threats to coral reefs in the warming of the oceans, which causes them more acidic and averts the coral from captivating the calcium carbonate that needs to grow.
You can go through the full story here.
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