Antonio Manaytay – Fourth Estate Contributor
Queensland, Australia (4E) – An international team of researchers has warned that the opportunity to save coral reefs worldwide is getting smaller as the world’s reefs suffered from bleaching due to global warming.
The study, published on January 4 in the journal Science, had documented the significant shortening the period of bleaching events.
The increased frequency of coral bleaching has endangered not only the iconic ecosystems but also the livelihoods of millions of people in the world.
“The time between bleaching events at each location has diminished five-fold in the past 3-4 decades,” study lead author Prof. Terry Hughes, the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE), said.
Coral bleaching, according to the study, occurred every 25 to 30 years in the 1980s. It has increased to once in every six years in 2010.
“Before the 1980s, mass bleaching of corals was unheard of, even during strong El Nino conditions,” Hughes said.
The conditions had tremendously changed as “regional-scale bleaching and mass mortality of corals” is the new normal as global temperatures are rising.
At present, according to the researchers, the tropical sea temperatures are warmer during cooler La Nina conditions that it was about 40 years ago during El Nino seasons.
“Coral bleaching is a stress response caused by exposure of coral reefs to elevated ocean temperatures,” co-author Prof. Andrew Baird said.
“When bleaching is severe and prolonged, many of the corals die. It takes at least a decade to replace even the fastest-growing species,” he explained.
Co-author Dr. C. Mark Eakin said the iconic ecosystem has “entered a distinctive human-dominated era.”
“The climate has warmed rapidly in the past 50 years, first making El Ninos dangerous for corals, and now we’re seeing the emergence of bleaching in every hot summer,” Eakin, who is the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), USA, said.
The rapid warming of the global temperatures, for instance, caused the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef four times since 1998, including the bleaching for two consecutive years in 2016 and 2017.
“We hope our stark results will help spur stronger action needed to reduce greenhouse gases in Australia, the United States and elsewhere,” Hughes said.
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