Photo: Sarah_Ackerman via Flickr
Climate change and ocean acidification is killing off coral reefs around the world. One of the worst hit reefs if the magnificent Great Barrier Reef, off of Australia, half of which has died off in the last 30 years, a new study suggests.LiveScience talked to the study’s researchers:
Katharina Fabricius, a coral reef ecologist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science and study co-author, told LiveScience that she has been diving and working on the reef since 1988 — and has watched the decline. “I hear of the changes anecdotally, but this is the first long-term look at the overall status of the reef. There are still a lot of fish, and you can see giant clams, but not the same colour and diversity as in the past.”
To get their data, Fabricius and her colleagues surveyed 214 different reefs around the Great Barrier Reef, compiling information from 2,258 surveys to determine the rate of decline between 1985 and 2012. They estimated the coral cover, or the amount of the seafloor covered with living coral.
That overall 50-per cent decline, they estimate, is a yearly loss of about 3.4 per cent of the reef.
Some areas of the reef were in better condition than others, Fabricius said. Her work was published this week in the journal Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences. Several things are to blame for the reef’s decline: cyclones, higher temperatures, ocean acidification, and environmental changes due to nutrient run off from agriculture.
Several human interventions could save the reef, Les Kaufman told LiveScience:
“The problem is entirely soluble, and coral reefs can be saved through concerted effort over this and the following two or three generations,” said Kaufman. “There is absolutely no excuse for failure to do this, and if we do fail our generation will forever be remembered for unimaginable, unforgivable stupidity and sloth.”
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