BEACON TRANSCRIPT – The next 26 years do not look so colorful for coral reefs around the globe since they will be suffering annual bleaching. This bleaching is caused by the massive greenhouse gas emissions that have failed to be reduced over the last decades. The United Nations Environmental Programme stated that 99% of the world’s coral reefs will be affected by bleaching during the century.
The process of bleaching might not start immediately. Studies have found that it will be triggered around 2043 and the first reefs to be hit are those around Taiwan and the Turks and Caicos archipelago. Other reefs that might be affected later are off the coast of Chile, French Polynesia and Bahrain.
Every quantity of gas emission is prone to affect the reefs. A massive reduction of the emission will win only 11 years on average before the reefs start bleaching again. The research, found in Nature Scientific Reports journal, includes a map that shows which reefs are about to be affected and when.
Every small change in the environment can trigger the bleaching. This process is caused by the disappearance of the colorful algae inside the coral, causing them to turn white. A reef needs at least five years to recover from a bleaching, but the process that occurs annually gives corals no time to heal. The lead researcher of the study, Ruben van Hooidonk, says that the bleaching affects not only the coral ecosystem but also the human communities living on the coasts. For example, the fishing business will face major difficulties if the coral ecosystem does not function properly.
During the last two years, the global temperature increase has raised to 4 degrees Celsius, causing 90% of the coral to bleach and more than 20% of it to die. This is the worst event of bleaching in history which killed corals in alarming numbers. The U.N. Environment’s target regarding temperature decrease is at least 1.5 degrees Celsius. This may bring a positive outcome on the coral reefs, but chances are not so big and the reefs are not entirely safe.
The future looks a little brighter for the reefs that are presumed to be suffering from bleaching in more further decades. These are called climate “refugia” and may respond better to bleaching reduction. Efforts that should be made in this sense include a stop on overfishing, on damage from tourism and on pollution.
Coral reefs host at least one quarter of all marine life and preserving them will not only help the environment, but also the so-far flourishing fishing and tourism industries.
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