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One Fifth of World’s Corals Gone: Climate Change Battle to Rescue Remaining

The Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2008, released in Washington, DC, December 2008, declares a 19 percent loss of coral reefs worldwide. 

Launched by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), the report identifies which coral reefs are recovering and which are declining worldwide. The report states if current trends in carbon dioxide emissions continue, many remaining reefs may be lost over the next 20 to 40 years with alarming consequences. 

Project AWARE Foundation, partner behind the project and supporter of the launch event, is encouraged by the report that 45 percent of the world’s reefs are currently healthy. But the Foundation also recognizes a focus on climate change, now considered the leading threat to coral reefs today. Threats including increasing ocean temperatures and ocean acidification are intensified by other threats including overfishing, pollution and invasive species. 

“If nothing changes, we are looking at a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide in less than 50 years,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of the IUCN Global Marine Programme, one of the organizations behind the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. “As this carbon is absorbed, the oceans will become more acidic, which is seriously damaging a wide range of marine life from corals to plankton communities and from lobsters to seagrasses.” 

Hope is also found in the ability of some corals to recover after major bleaching events, caused by warming waters, adapting to climate change threats. However, the report also shows the recent downward trends have not been reversed in the last four years. And corals have a higher chance of survival against climate change if other human threats are minimized. 

“The report details the strong scientific consensus that climate change must be limited to the absolute minimum. If nothing is done to substantially cut emissions, we could effectively lose coral reefs as we know them, with major coral extinctions, says Clive Wilkinson, Coordinator of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. 

Ten years after the world’s biggest coral bleaching event, we know that reefs can recover given the chance. Unfortunately, impacts on the scale of 1998 will reoccur in the near future, and there’s no time to lose if we want to give reefs and people a chance to suffer as little as possible,” says Dr David Obura, Chair of the IUCN Climate Change and Coral Reefs working group and Director of the Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean Programme (CORDIO) in East Africa.  

The GCRMN is a network of people, governments, institutes and NGOs in more than 80 countries, with many partners, including: CORDIO, Reef Check, CARICOMP, Project AWARE Foundation and AGRRA. All reports are available through www.ReefBase.org. To read more of such articles visit ProjectAware

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Posted on February 19, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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