• Coral reefs are essential for millions of people all over the globe. They provide food, employment and protection against storms and erosion.
  • Due to climate change, 14% of planet’s coral reefs disappeared since 2009.
  • We must ensure that future generations inherit the coral-rich world we have created.

A major report Tuesday revealed that coral reefs around the world are at risk. Around 14% have disappeared since 2009, due to climate change.

Although pollution and overfishing are both contributing factors to the coral’s decline, warmer ocean waters are more dangerous. 

“Large-scale coral bleaching events caused by elevated sea-surface temperatures are the greatest disturbance to the world’s coral reefs,” the report said. 

An irrevocable loss of coral reefs would be “catastrophic,” according to the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network report, which is the largest research of coral reef health that’s ever been done.

“Since 2009 we have lost more coral, worldwide, than all the living coral in Australia,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, which helped with the report. “We have a short time to reverse these losses. But we must take action now.”

A 2018 study found that severe coral bleaching has been increasing fivefold over the last four decades. It used to occur once in 25-30 years, but this was only one time in 1980s. This is compared to the once in six years of 2016 according to a new report.

Coral bleaching can occur when water temperature rises. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA), stated that corals expel any algae found in the water and turn white. Coral bleaching is the process of coral becoming completely white. NOAA stated on their website that corals are capable of surviving a bleaching event. However, this means they will be more stressed and may die.

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Even though reefs only cover 0.2 percent, at least 25% of marine species call them home. They provide critical habitat, a vital source of protein and life-saving medicine, according to Tuesday’s report.  

They are essential for the survival of hundreds of millions of people all over the globe. 

The value of coral reefs’ services and goods is $2.7 trillion annually, with $36 billion for coral reef tourism.

“People around the world depend on healthy coral reefs and the services they provide for food, income, recreation and protection from storms,” said Jennifer Koss, director of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, in a statement. “It is possible to turn the tide on the losses we are seeing, but doing so relies on us as a global community making more environmentally conscious decisions in our everyday lives.”

According to NOAA, this is the first ever global coral report. NOAA reported that nearly two million observations were made from over 12,000 locations in 73 countries. The data was collected over 40 years. This analysis represented the efforts of more than 300 scientists.

Andersen, from the UN, stressed the importance of the report’s findings: “We must not leave future generations to inherit a world without coral,” she concluded.

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