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.
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
e360 on Facebook
Donate to e360
View mobile site
Subscribe to our newsletter
Subscribe to our feed:
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
Photographer Peter Essick documents the swift changes wrought by global warming in Antarctica, Greenland, and other far-flung places. View the gallery.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
The Warriors of Qiugang
, a Yale Environment 360
video that chronicles the story of a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant, was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject).
Watch the video.
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland
. © Google & TerraMetrics.
In a Yale Environment 360
video, photographer Pete McBride documents how increasing water demands have transformed the Colorado River, the lifeblood of the arid Southwest. Watch the video.