Biggest Coral Die-Off of the Century Caused by Global Warming

Global warming makes more victims every day, reducing animal populations and affecting habitats irreversibly. One of the most damaging effects of the phenomenon is a strong heatwave that took over the underwater world. For the past two years, a massive coral die-off has taken place, changing the face of the Great Barrier Reef forever.

We have noticed that temperatures have gotten higher everywhere in the world. This affected the oceans as well, which have suddenly gotten warmer in 2016. This definitely had an impact on coral populations, so we got the most serious coral die-off that has ever happened. Just like we would expect, this affected both the habitat as a whole and the coral diversity.

This phenomenon took researchers by surprise. They expected a major impact of climate change on sea wildlife, but such a major coral die-off came as a huge blow. These creatures disappeared at an incredibly high speed, so researchers realized the Great Barrier Reef will no longer look like it used to.

The Coral Die-Off Affects Everyone in Equal Measure

Such a prospect is incredibly worrying about the environment. The coral die-off also impacted the other creatures that populated the same habitat. The Great Barrier Reef was the home of about a thousand of other species that included both fish and mammals. However, researchers are not only worrying about marine life. The damage has other consequences as well.

The Great Barrier Reef has been bringing important revenue to Australia for many years. It was one of the main tourist attractions of the country, with hundreds of thousands of people coming to see it annually. Now, with a massive coral die off, this number might decrease, eventually affected the job industry.

The Great Barrier Reef has produced over 70,000 jobs until now. If the tourism revenue will get smaller, many people are in danger of losing their jobs, so the situation is tragic for everyone.

Bleached coral with fish nearby, coral die-off

How Serious Was This Massive Die-Off?

Soon after the 2016 event, researchers made some estimations and established an approximate number of affected corals. Nine months later, they came back and studied the corals. Their aim was to see how many had actually managed to recover. The massive heatwave left some corals bleached. If they could regain their color, it means they had slowly started recovering.

After the estimations, they realized the coral die-off was more severe in the northern part of the reef. Warm water is essential for the survival of these creatures. However, they are extremely sensitive to extreme heat or sudden temperature changes. Even a few degrees above the regular ranges can be lethal to them.

However, the situation is not that grim, and researchers are somehow optimistic. If nations started respecting the global climate agreements, we might keep temperatures from rising above the dangerous limit. This might preserve the reef over a long period, but with a whole different aspect.

In other words, the future remains unclear. The evolution of the barrier reef and another potential coral die-off only depends on the evolution of the climate and our efforts to preserve it. If you are interested in the matter, you can read more in the study published in the journal Nature.

Image source: 1, 2.

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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