50% of the Great Barrier Reef is Dead Since 2016. What Happens When All Coral Reefs Die Off?

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A new study published in the journal Nature shows that a third of the 3,863 reefs in the Great Barrier Reef has died off after a heat wave in 2016. One year later, there was a bleaching event that killed more of the reef and in only two years, half of the amazing system of reefs has died.

Not only the Great Barrier Reef has suffered, but it happened to coral reefs all over the world. In 30 years, the planet lost half of its global coral reefs.

Reefs Cannot Keep Up with Global Warming

With the Earth’s climate changing so fast, the reefs didn’t adapt fast enough, and oceans warmed, becoming more acidic, thus affecting the reefs.

The main issue is that, except for their stunning beauty, coral reefs keep the oceans healthy. About 25% of the fish species spend part of their lives in reefs that now only cover 1% of the ocean floor.

The loss of reefs could have a rippling effect on our environment. Michael Crosby, the president of Mote Laboratory and Aquarium and marine scientist has warned us long before of the consequences.

He asks: “You like to breathe?”

And then he explains: “Estimates are that up to 80% of the oxygen you are breathing in right now comes from the ocean. It doesn’t come from the land. In order for you to continue to breathe, you have to have a healthy ocean.”

We’re Killing the Reefs

There are many other causes of reefs dying off. In some places, it’s overfishing that ruins the food chain and algae or parasites get to suffocate corals. Then, there are anchors and nets that scrape the sea floor and destroys reefs. Pollution from the cities and from agriculture also are a cause.

The main cause is burning fossil fuels, which warmed the planet and that heat got absorbed into the oceans. Corals lose the components that give them those amazing color and that also feeds them, so they get white and then die.

By 2030, 60% of the coral reefs will be critically threatened and by 2050 and even sooner, they will be wiped off. And with them, most of the sealife will be extinct.

There is a possibility that some populations of corals will adapt in time, but they will no longer look as we know them.

Something has to change fast, as the whole ocean ecosystem will collapse.

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Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.


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