The End of the Coral Reef May be Nigh

Coral reefs have always been an important indicator of two things; the first is the amount of pollution in the sea and the second is the way in which the climate is or is not changing. In relation to climate change as seas get warmer coral reefs die; the “bleach” because their survival depends on a sea water range of temperature; as seas warm (or cool) so reefs die.

Coral reefs are also affected by the acidification of the oceans caused be carbon dioxide emissions, which in turn are mainly caused by humans burning fossil fuel. Acidification affects the ability of corals to create the calcareous skeletons, upon which they depend in order to live.

In the twenty seven short years since 1985 the Great Barrier Reef on the East Coast of Australia has suffered a loss of more than half of its live coral. Coral cover declined from 28% to less than 14%.

It is not just direct climate conditions that kill coral. Indirect effects of global warming, such as the greater number and longer frequency of hurricanes and tropical typhoons, kill coral. Some types of starfish eat coral. Normally a coral reef can take between one and two decades to recover from the effects of bleach and damage by typhoons, but the climate change does not pause and corals are finding it hard to recover.

Some years ago it was predicted that by 2050 the world would not have any coral reefs. I do not know if this prediction has any substance, but if you want to explore a live coral reef, get your snorkel and flippers and do not delay; just in case.

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