Coral Reef Habitats May Be Nearly Extinct by 2100

Warming oceans and acidic waters could kill off almost all coral reef habitats by 2100.
Brad Bergan

In the year 2100, there may be almost no coral reef habitats left in any ocean on Earth, according to new research presented in San Diego at the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2020.


Coral reef habitats dying sooner than expected

Scientists had predicted that roughly 70% to 90% of coral reef habitats would vanish from every ocean in the next 20 years from the effects of climate change and pollution. Some research groups intent on transplanting live corals to a lab to save dying reefs proposed that new, young corals could boost recovery, and bring it back to healthy levels.

But new research mapping where these restoration efforts would achieve the most success in the coming decades found that by 2100, few to none suitable habitats could provide a home to these young corals.

Preliminary findings project sea surface temperature and acidity are the most significant variables in the habitability of would-be underwater safe zones.

"By 2100, it's looking quite grim," said Renee Setter, a biogeographer at the University of Hawaii Manoa, slated to present the new findings, in a Science Daily report.

Climate change threatens coral reefs the most

This highlights some of the most horrible effects the Earth's changing climate will have on the planet's marine life, according to the researchers. While pollution poses many threats to ocean life, the new research shows that corals are most at risk from the emissions society pumps into the environment.

"Trying to clean up the beaches is great and trying to combat pollution is fantastic. We need to continue those efforts," Setter said in Science Daily. "But at the end of the day, fighting climate change is really what we need to be advocating for in order to protect corals and avoid compounded stressors."

Bleached coral reef habitats are more vulnerable

Coral Reef habitats face uncertain futures as temperatures rise higher from climate change. The warm waters stress corals, which makes them release symbiotic algae living inside them. This makes normally vibrant-colored communities of corals turn white, in a process called bleaching.

Bleached coral reefs aren't dead, but they are at a higher risk of dying, and these are becoming more common as climate change progresses, according to the report. Using a simulation, researchers also found that most present-day coral reef habitats won't be around in 2045, cutting the timeline to save the ecosystem from reaching a state with grave implications for us all.

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