Climate-smart policies to save coral reefs from extinction

Earth’s oceans are home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. However, high temperatures kill many marine animals, including corals.

To save coral reefs from extinction, researchers say climate-smart policies need to be implemented worldwide. Image Credit: Getty Images

A new study to regulate the impact of climate change on these organisms suggests that more international cooperation is needed to secure the future of more than 6000 species of coral.

Coral reefs are an essential ecosystem on our planet. Coral reefs are really important to humans in that they provide protection for coasts from erosion and storms, and are essential for some services such as tourism and other parts of the economy..

Andrea Grottoli, co-author of the study and Professor of Earth Sciences, The Ohio State University

The study published in the journal The biology of global changeTips for using intermediate havens, or areas that can stretch thousands of miles. This is often done across national borders to protect ocean liners.

Global warming is the number one threat to coral reefs right now. So when we think about coral reef conservation, we can’t limit ourselves to random geographic boundaries.

Andrea Grottoli, co-author of the study and Professor of Earth Sciences, The Ohio State University

According to Grottoli, introducing a so-called “conservation chain” would greatly benefit the reef. However, because there is a discrepancy in conservation policies between many governments and politicians, it can be difficult to protect the surrounding areas.

Although coral reefs tend to occupy less than 0.1% of the surface area in Earth’s oceans, nearly 30% of all marine species are associated with them in one way or another, Grottoli reported. However, as a result of stress from increasing sea temperatures, corals located around the world have experienced greater rates of coral bleaching or the visible fading of the coral surface.

When subjected to coral bleaching, the animal’s skeleton, once hidden, becomes visible, efficiently turning the creature into a ghostly dull white. Although bleached corals do not die immediately, they can lead to mass mortality. The researchers state that mass bleaching events are known to be an indicator of ecosystem health failure.

Many people may be familiar with the reefs across the Great Barrier Reef, a complex reef system so huge that the living structure can be observed from space. Located off the coast of Australia, over two million tourists visit the area annually. The appeal brings an estimated annual economic value of approximately $36 billion.

But despite being the most protected marine area in the world, the GBR was recently hit by another mass bleaching event, the fourth time in just six years.

While climate change has certainly played a role in increases in the intensity and frequency of these events, rising seas are also changing the composition and architectural complexity of coral reefs.

In light of this reality, the future of coral reefs may look bleakThe newspaper said.

However, there is some good news. Even as the number of coral reefs in the world tends to decline, the genetic diversity of coral species helps ensure that few corals may be able to adapt and recover.

While there is an immediate requirement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, the study also simultaneously points out the need for multidisciplinary approaches to making both local and large-scale ocean reserves.

Grottoli hopes a lot of the heavy lifting can be done to save the reef through education.

People who understand coral reefs, who understand the value of coral reefs, are more likely to do something to help protect it.. If you don’t know anything about coral, and have never seen it, how can you feel any sympathy or feel any connection to this ecosystem?

Andrea Grottoli, co-author of the study and Professor of Earth Sciences, The Ohio State University

In her role as President of the International Coral Reef Society, Grottoli and her collaborators have developed a range of actions that individuals can take at home to assist researchers with conservation measures.

This study was financially supported by the National Science Foundation.

Journal reference:

Van Woysek, R.; et al. (2022) Coral bleaching responses to climate change across biological scales. The biology of global change.


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