Global warming kills 14% of world’s corals in a decade



“Since 2009 we have lost more coral worldwide than all the living coral in Australia,” noted UNEP executive director Inger Anderson.

“We can reverse the losses, but we have to act now.”

The UN’s climate science advisory panel, the IPCC, projects with “high confidence” that global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels will see 70 to 90 per cent of all corals disappear.

In a 2 degrees Celsius warmer world, less than 1 per cent of global corals would survive.

Earth’s average surface temperature has already increased by 1.1 degrees Celsius above that benchmark.

The report, titled Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2020, found reasons for cautious optimism.

“Some reefs have shown a remarkable ability to bounce back, which offers some hope for the future recovery of degraded reefs,” Hardisty said.

East and Southeast Asia’s “Coral Triangle” – which contains nearly 30 per cent of the world’s coral reefs – were hit less hard by warming waters over the last decade, and in some cases showed recovery.

This resilience could be due to species unique to the region, potentially offering strategies for boosting coral growth elsewhere, the authors said.

Based on nearly 2 million data points from 12,000 sites spanning 73 countries and 40 years, the report is the sixth such global survey and the first since 2008.

To measure change over time, the researchers contrasted areas covered by healthy live hard coral with areas taken over by algae, a sign of coral distress.

The report was undertaken with support from UNEP and the International Coral Reef Initiative, a partnership of governments and research organisations focused on preserving corals reefs and related ecosystems.

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