The continued existence of coral reefs is not guaranteed. In fact, new research has revealed that they may very well disappear unless a significant amount of cuts are made in greenhouse gas emissions. Factors like pollution, climate change, bleaching and storms, as well as disease play heavily into just how damaged the underwater ecosystems become as time goes on, as not all of them have the ability to adapt.
According to the Jakarta Post, the annual global economic value of coral reefs adds up to 375 billion dollars per year. This stems from the many benefits which come along with their existence. Not only do coral reefs protect shorelines, but they also provide fish and marine life shelter, as well as bring tourists to the coast. The contributions of these ecosystems makes this recent news even more alarming, with scientists warning that up to 90 percent of coral reefs may die off by the middle of the century. The remaining 10 percent are fortunate enough to contain certain genetic variants, which allow them to tolerate a spike in temperature and suchlike. Tabletop corals will only be able to withstand another 3.7 degree increase, before dying off and quite possibly becoming extinct. One of the countries most affected by this decline is China, with approximately 80 percent of their coral reefs having been destroyed in recent decades.
In regards to these select few types of coral reefs, researchers are adamant to make it known that their adaptability skills are not infinite and will eventually run out. A statement was given by Rachael Bay, the study’s lead author, in which she was clear that “keeping these reefs around requires curbing emissions.” Bay is employed at UC Davis as a postdoctoral scholar. The research was done, reveals the Jordan Times, by studying computer models which mimicked the ability of coral reefs to survive under greenhouse gas concentration levels of four different heights. These are also known as Representative Concentration Pathways, or RCPs, and are released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change.
Further studies are underway, reports the British Journal, to discover more about the adaptability of coral reefs other than tabletops. As for the largest factor behind their decline, the rate that coral bleaching occurs has reportedly skyrocketed and become something of an environmental crisis over the past few years.
[Featured Image by Caleb Jones/AP Images]