Global Warming continues as a hot topic, especially in regards to the oceans. A new research paper published Wednesday found that this topic is continuously more critical to learn about.
According to the research, published in Nature, found that global warming is severely damaging the Great Barrier Reef. Researchers claim that climate change is decreasing the reef’s resilience.
The authors ran multiple aerial and underwater surveys to acquire data on the climate’s effects on the reef. Their data showed that a record heatwave last summer damaged the reef the most and led to record-breaking massive coral bleaching. Almost 50 percent of the reef’s “extreme” bleaching is because of the water’s intense heat. Furthermore, 91 percent of the reef demonstrates signs of bleaching, which occurs when excessive warm waters allow algae to turn coral completely white and greatly increase its chance of mortality.
Sean Connolly, one of the paper’s authors, said half of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral cover, or the ratio of stony coral to live sponges, algae, and other organisms, died in the last 27 years.
“[In the last three decades] coral cover went from 28 percent to 13 percent,” he said. “Preliminary estimates [from last year’s disaster] are saying we’ve lost half that amount again. To have that kind of mortality on that kind of scale is unprecedented.”
Global warming is to blame
Coral bleaching grows rampant when ocean waters are too warm. The algae grown on the corals takes away any source of energy, eventually starving and killing the organisms.
Connolly said the fact that the mass bleaching is occurring on ancient and massive reefs is a red flag of global warming’s severity. He said that slow-growing corals will not have enough energy or time to recover from bleaching.
Unfortunately, the coral reef will eventually die with all the corals. Algae eventually colonize coral skeletons completely and turn them a dark color. The excessive colonization ends up collapsing and sea animals, including fish and crustaceans, is destroyed.
Connolly said that reefs can not biologically withstand excessively warm temperatures. Accordingly, he said that reefs will eventually diminish and seaweed and other stress-tolerant organisms will take over the areas.
“We have known that things would go in this way for decades,” he explained. “Our international system of government and policy has utterly failed to take relatively inexpensive action to head off what could be potentially catastrophic climate change — not just on reefs, but on other ecosystems we depend on.”