17 Sep 2012:
Most Coral Reefs At Risk
Even if Warming Limited to 2 Degrees C
Most of the world’s coral reefs will likely be subject to long-term degradation even if global warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius
, and as much as one-third of coral reef systems will likely be vulnerable to threats even under the most optimistic climate projections, a new study says. In an analysis of the
In Fight to Save Coral Reefs,
Finding Strategies that Work
In four decades as a marine biologist, Nancy Knowlton
has played a key role in documenting the biodiversity of coral reefs and the threats they increasingly face. In an interview with Yale e360
, she highlights conservation projects that offer hope of saving these irreplaceable ecosystems.
potential effects of heat stress on coral reef systems worldwide under different climate change scenarios, a team of researchers found that most potential outcomes will likely trigger more frequent and intense mass-bleaching events. If global mean temperature increases exceed 2 degrees C, coral reefs “might no longer be prominent coastal ecosystems,” said Katja Frieler, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change
. Under the most optimistic scenarios — including aggressive climate mitigation and assumptions that coral systems can adapt to warming conditions — one third of the world’s coral reef systems would still be subject to severe degradation, the study said. “Without a yet-uncertain process of adaptation or acclimation, however, already about 70 percent of corals are projected to suffer from long-term degradation by 2030 even under an ambitious mitigation scenario,” Frieler said. According to researchers, the likely threshold to preserve at least half of the world’s coral reefs would be a global mean temperature increase of less than 1.5 degrees C.
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Photographer Robert Wintner documents the exquisite beauty and biodiversity of Cuba’s coral reefs, which are largely intact thanks to stifled coastal development in the communist nation. View the gallery.
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The Warriors of Qiugang
, a Yale Environment 360
video, chronicles a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant. It was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
Watch the video.
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland
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A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.