PHOTO CREDITS: CBS NEWS
According to NBC News, a new study has shown The Great Barrier Reef’s coral population has decreased by fifty percent between 1995 and 2017. Additionally, the UNESCO World Heritage site has suffered three mass bleaching events in the last five years.
The co-author of the study, Professor Terry Hughes, said: “The decline occurred in both shallow and deeper water, and across virtually all species, but especially in branching and table-shaped corals” (SciTech Daily). These specific corals are especially important for providing a safe habitat for the fish that inhabit the reef. This means that a decrease in corals correlates with a decrease in reef biodiversity. According to research done by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, despite covering less than .1% of the ocean floor, reefs are home to over a quarter of all marine fish species.
Coral bleaching is a result of the reef experiencing higher than average sea temperatures. Recent increases in water temperatures has increased the frequency of these bleaching events, which inhibits the reefs’ ability to recover. A report done by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that reefs can take over fifteen years to recover from a single bleaching event, yet there have been three mass bleaching events in the past five years.
Coral reefs have the most biodiversity of any ecosystem on Earth, and they are also the most vulnerable to warming oceans. The U.N. report warned the majority of all tropical reefs on Earth will disappear even if we limit global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels. Current estimates suggest that temperatures are on track to rise between 3.6 and 4.4 degrees in the next century.
ARTICLE: JOSEPH MODICA
SCIENCE/HEALTH EDITOR: KYLE SMITH