Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Coral reefs have no time to recover

Coral reefs have no time to recover
08 Jan
2018
Coral bleaching is widespread around the globe and as it becomes an increasingly frequently occurrence, our ocean’s reefs are heading towards a point of no return

‘In the 1980s, the gap was 25 years. Before then, mass bleaching didn’t occur,’ says professor Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. ‘The average gap between two consecutive bleaching events since 2010 (up to 2016) is 5.9 years. But some reefs have bleached three times in that period.’

Coral bleaching occurs when stressful conditions result in the expulsion of the algae from the coral. These stressful conditions usually relate to above average sea water temperature caused by global warming.

Before human driven climate change, these events were relatively rare, which allowed the reef time to recover between events, but as Hughes’ has discovered, the interval between damaging events is dropping at an alarming rate.

‘Since mass bleaching began in the 1980s, the Caribbean region has accumulated the most events, mainly because it warmed up sooner,’ he says. ‘In the Indo-Pacific, locations that have experienced more than five severe bleaching events are well scattered.’

The ARC study looked at 100 reefs globally and found that the average interval between bleaching events is now less than half of what it was before. In addition, warming events such as El Niño are becoming more severe than previously recorded.

These changes are likely to make it more and more difficult for reefs to recover between stressful events, and Hughes believes the situation is becoming critical. ‘If global warming and business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to continue, reefs as we know them will be destroyed,’ he warns. ‘The COP21 Paris Agreement provides a way forward that could save reefs and other vulnerable ecosystems, but there’s no time to lose.’

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

Julysub 2020

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

geo line break v3

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Oceans

Researchers have revealed just how many polluting microfibres are released…

Wildlife

Increasing reports of seized jaguar fangs and skin suggest that…

Geophoto

Forced isolation has given many of us the chance to…

Oceans

A fifth of the ocean floor has now been mapped,…

Wildlife

Four ex-circus lions discovered in France are due to be…

Oceans

A roundup of some of the top discussions from the…

Energy

The agave plant, used to make Tequila, has proven itself…

Climate

Concerns about the ozone hole have diminished as levels of…

Wildlife

In the Eastern Cape of South Africa, Munu – a…

Geophoto

Photography competition, Earth Photo, returns for the third year with…

Oceans

A new study reveals the process behind the strange phenomenon…

Wildlife

Hunting is a topic that attracts polarised viewpoints. But as…

Oceans

A compilation of 50-years worth of data on human activity…

Wildlife

From the US to the Mediterranean, herds of goats are…

Wildlife

Meet the 2020 Whitley Award winners

Wildlife

Protecting the most famous members of the animal kingdom may…