02 Oct 2012:
Great Barrier Reef Lost
Half of Coral Cover Since 1985, Study Says
The Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its coral cover in just 27 years, with most of that decline coming as a result of heavy storms, predation by crown-of-thorn starfish, and coral bleaching caused by warming ocean temperatures. In a comprehensive survey of 214 reefs, researchers at the Australian
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.
Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) found that coral cover declined from 28 percent in 1985 to 13.8 percent this year
. Intense tropical storms, particularly in the central and southern parts of the reef, have caused about 48 percent of the coral loss, researchers say. An explosion in populations of starfish along the entire reef caused about 42 percent of the decline; about 10 percent was caused by major bleaching events. Reefs are typically able to regain their coral cover after such disturbances, said Hugh Sweatman, one of the lead authors of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
. “But recovery takes 10-20 years,” Sweatman said. “At present, the intervals between the disturbances are generally too short for full recovery and that's causing the long-term losses.” While the scientists say little can be done about the storms, the study found that efforts to reduce starfish populations could help increase coral cover at a rate of 0.89 percent per year. At the current rate of loss, the iconic reef will lose another half of its coral cover by 2022, the researchers said.
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
The 2015 Yale e360 Video Contest winner documents a Northeastern town's bitter battle over a wind farm. Watch the video.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
A 2015 Yale e360 Video Contest winner captures stunning images of wild salmon runs in Alaska. Watch the video.
video series looks at the staggering amount of food wasted in the U.S. – a problem with major human and environmental costs. Watch the video.
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.
video goes onto the front lines with Colorado firefighters confronting deadly blazes fueled by a hotter, drier climate. Watch the video.