Rising sea temperatures destroyed 14% of world’s coral reefs
Share article:
Share article:

Rising sea temperatures destroyed 14% of world’s coral reefs

Rising sea temperatures are resulting in coral reefs dying. Credit: Jordan Robins / Ocean Image Bank

Rising sea temperatures, resulting in large-scale coral bleaching, has resulted in the world losing 14% of its coral reefs – more than the size of all Australia’s reefs combined – between 2009 and 2018.

The increasing frequency and geographic extent of mass coral bleaching events – corals expel symbiotic algae living in their tissues as a result of changes in conditions such as temperature or nutrients, resulting in them turning completely white – have prevented coral cover from recovering, according to a report published by two reef monitoring organisations (GCRMN and ICRI) on Wednesday.

Researchers and scientists reported 20% more algae on the world’s coral reefs in 2019 than in 2010, which is an indicator of the stress felt by the corals.

Dynamic coral cities support up to 800 different species of hard coral and are home to more than 25% of all marine life, and harbour the highest biodiversity of any of the world’s ecosystems.

A “progressive” shift from coral to algae-dominated reefs reduces “the complex three-dimensional habitat that is essential to support high biodiversity and provide valuable goods and services for reef-dependent human communities,” the report read.

Certain resilience

Before the first mass coral bleaching event which took place in 1998, the global average cover of hard coral was high (more than 30%) and stable, but approximately 8% of the world’s coral was killed following this mass bleaching.

“To put this into context, this represents more than the total amount of living coral in any one of the Caribbean, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, South Asia or Western Indian Ocean regions,” the report stated.

The global average cover of hard coral recovered to pre-1998 levels (33.3% in 2009), which scientists argued suggests that many of the world’s coral reefs “remain resilient and can recover if conditions permit.”

However, in the last decade, mainly as a result of elevated sea surface temperatures (SST), large-scale coral bleaching events recurred more often, giving the corals less time to recover.

Total loss is possible

Over the course of the century, a 1.5°C increase in water temperatures could result in a loss of 70% to 90% of reef areas, while this loss could be almost total with a 2°C increase, according to the scenarios put forward in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s special report on the ocean and cryosphere.

The report stressed that both “reducing local pressures coral reefs in order to maintain their resilience until climate change is addressed,” as well as monitoring data collected in the field to understand the status of coral reef condition, will be critical.

“If we halt and reverse ocean warming through global cooperation, we give coral reefs a chance to come back from the brink. It will, however, take nothing less than ambitious, immediate and well-funded climate and ocean action to save the world’s coral reefs,” the report read.

The findings of the research, funded by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), are based on data gathered by more than 300 scientists from 73 countries, who carried out two million individual observations over a span of four decades.

Latest news

Increase in number of people ‘asking King for mercy’ through royal pardons
More and more people living in Belgium have been seeking royal pardons, mainly for fines, largely as a result of it now being possible to send in ...
England now accepting cheaper Covid tests from fully vaccinated travellers
Fully vaccinated travellers who enter England from non-red countries will only be required to book a lateral flow test to take following their ...
Re-introducing face masks indoors considered as Covid-19 situation worsens
Belgium's council of ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the worsening epidemiological situation, and reintroducing face ...
Federal museums to receive €2.9 million booster shot
Federal museums will receive an additional €2.9 million in support from the government for the fiscal year 2021, of which the first payouts will be ...
European Parliament emphasises healthy food and animal welfare in EU Farm to Fork Strategy
The European Parliament adopted this week a resolution on the EU Farm to Fork Strategy calling for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food ...
Threats of strike action could affect Brussels’ STIB network from Monday
Brussels public transport operator STIB's trams, buses and metros could be affected from Monday 25 October onwards as the union representing the ...
Number of international adoptions in Belgium continues to drop
The number of regulated international adoptions authorised by Belgium further dropped in 2020, continuing an ongoing decreasing trend. Last ...
Disaster drill with emergency services held at Brussels Airport
Around 300 people took part in a disaster drill held was organised on Saturday by Brussels Airport in collaboration with external emergency services ...
Austria presents bill to legalise euthanasia
Austria’s government on Saturday presented its proposals for legalising assisted suicide, in response to a Constitutional Court ruling that the ...
Brussels’ Museum Night Fever draws in some 12,000 visitors
Some 12,000 participants took part in the 14th edition of Museum Night Fever in Brussels, with the 29 participating museums filled to the maximum ...
Relaunch of 10,000 steps campaign to get Flemish people moving
The Flemish government is breathing new life into its 10,000 steps campaign to get people in the region moving after a recent survey found that a ...
‘No scientific basis’ for giving everyone third dose, vaccine expert says
The head of Belgium's Vaccination Taskforce has argued that there is not enough scientific evidence to support the Flemish government's decision to ...