Its seems like every other week there’s a new doom and gloom report about coral reefs dying off in 10, 20, 50 years if we don’t do anything about it. Recently in DC, the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force held its annual meeting and the “Reefs at Risk Revisited” report was launched at the National Press Club, bringing more attention to the issue.
According to the report, the combination of global and local impacts are threatening 75 percent of coral reefs around the world. Global pressures on corals are increasing — causing coral bleaching due to rising sea temperatures and increasing ocean acidification from increasing carbon dioxide. If left unchecked, 90 percent of reefs will be threatened by 2030 and nearly all of them by 2050.
As one of the ecosystem’s most sensitive to temperature changes, coral reefs are sending us an early signal. Last year, there were severe bleaching events all over Southeast Asia. It was so bad that Thailand has closed down various diving sites, which in turn is affecting tourism and the local economy.
“This is about people as well as nature,” said Dr. Mark Spalding, senior marine scientist at The Nature Conservancy and lead author of the report. “Coral reefs keep our food supplies stable, act as a magnet for tourism dollars and produce life-saving compounds found in medicines for cancer, heart disease and HIV. When we secure the reefs, we safeguard human futures too.”
We must act now to reduce the impacts on coral reefs. The Nature Conservancy is working in 24 countries around the world to keep the healthiest reefs thriving and to identify where and how to bring degraded ones back to life. Coral reefs are naturally resilient and the Conservancy is leading the charge in developing reef resilience practices with reef managers around the world.
“There’s no silver bullet that can turn the fortunes around for an entire habitat,” said Stephanie Wear, director of coral reef conservation for the Nature Conservancy. “But if we all pitch in, from personal actions like adopting a reef or making good seafood choices to international collaboration on reef management and carbon emissions, our reefs will survive, and our own future will be better for it.”
“Reefs at Risk Revisited” is an important report, and it adds a heavy new chapter to what is finally becoming a mountain of scientific findings about the fragile nature of our planet’s precious reefs. These are findings that need to quickly be taken seriously, or one of the wonders that make our lives so beautiful will be gone forever.
Sandra Rodriguez is a media-relations manager for climate change at The Nature Conservancy
Video by Sandra Rodriguez
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