More Than 50% of World's Coral Reefs at Risk ; American Association for the Advancement of Science
Steve Connor, Science Editor,, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
More than half of the world's coral reefs - the tropical rainforests of the ocean - could be lost by the end of the century, according to the latest analysis of the marine environment's most vulnerable ecosystem.
A "triple whammy" of global warming, pollution and overfishing has put unprecedented pressure on tropical coral reefs. Until now, these reefs have survived undisturbed for thousands of years.
A study by a team of American scientists has discovered firm evidence to link the dramatic decline of coral reefs growing in warm equatorial waters with the rise in sea-surface temperatures seen in recent years.
Richard Aronson, a marine biologist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama and co-author of the study, said that about 10 per cent of tropical coral reefs around the world have already been affected or destroyed over the past 30 years, and the prospects for the remaining corals are not good.
"More than half will be ruined or degraded certainly by 2100, to be as conservative as possible and assuming we don't do anything about it," Dr Aronson told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle. "It definitely shows that global warming is having an impact on corals.
"The changes are unprecedented in thousands of years. On a 4,000- year timescale, things are substantially different now from the way they were before. They are substantially different in a bad way.
"Coral reef ecosystems are going to be significantly impacted by climate change. They're already being degraded by both climate change and by direct impacts such as overfishing and habitat loss, and the combination of these stresses can be devastating. …