[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Chance to save coral reefs dwindling


(Associated Press)

Study: Chance of saving most coral reefs is dwindling

Most of the world's coral could be wiped
out if greenhouse gas emissions are not
reined in over the next 10 years, scientists
have warned.

Global warming that exceeds a modest 2C
above pre-industrial levels could mean the
end of coral reefs as prominent coastal
ecosystems, a study suggests.

Warming will have to be kept down to
below 1.5C to protect at least half of the
reefs worldwide, say the researchers.

Dr Malte Meinshausen, one of the scientists
from the Potsdam Institute for Climate
Research in Germany, said: "The window of
opportunity to preserve the majority of
coral reefs, part of the world's natural
heritage, is small. We close this window if
we follow another decade of ballooning
global greenhouse gas emissions."

The scientists used a set of 19 global
climate simulations to predict the
cumulative heat stress on more than 2,000
coral reef sites worldwide.

Too much heat breaks down the vital
symbiotic relationship between coral and
the algae that live within them, and which
they rely on as an energy source. This
causes the coral to turn pale, or "bleach". If
the bleaching goes on for too long the coral

In 1998 an estimated 16% of corals were
lost in a single prolonged episode of
worldwide warmth.

The new study, published in the journal
Nature Climate Change, took into account
the effects of greater ocean acidity caused b
y carbon absorption, which makes corals
less able to withstand warm temperatures.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, another
member of the team from the University of
Queensland in Australia, pointed out that
corals were not equipped to evolve heat
resistance quickly enough.

"They have long lifecycles of five to 100
years and they show low levels of diversity
due to the fact that corals can reproduce
by cloning themselves," he said. "They are
not like fruit flies which can evolve much

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