Coral Reefs Are Functioning At Half Their Capacity, Thanks To Climate Change

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In a study titled “Global decline in capacity of coral reefs to provide ecosystem services” published in One Earth, researchers have said that coral reefs’ capacity to provide ecosystem services has declined by half since the 1950s.

“Coral reefs are biodiversity hotspots that provide millions of people with ecosystem services such as food provision, livelihood opportunities, carbon sequestration, and buffering against extreme climate events. The capacity of coral reefs to provide these services can change with natural fluctuations in environmental conditions due to stressors such as overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction and climate change,” said the scientists.

A few of the countries that showed steep decline in coral reef cover are Barbados, Cuba, Panama, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand. The website of the International Year Of The Reef says: “Coral reefs are often called the rainforests of the sea, both due to the vast amount of species they harbour, and to the high productivity they yield. Aside from the hundreds of species of coral, reefs support extraordinary biodiversity and are home to a multitude of different types of fish, invertebrates and sea mammals. Covering less than one percent of the ocean floor, reefs support an estimated twenty-five percent of all marine life, with over 4,000 species of fish alone. Their beauty makes coral reefs a powerful attraction for tourism, and well-managed tourism provides a sustainable means of earning foreign currency and employment for people around the world.” Many families around the world rely on coral reef fishing to earn a living.

The One Earth scientists found that “the estimated historical loss in coral habitat directly translates into loss in capacity of the remaining coral reefs to support biodiversity. The decline in global CPUE, an index of relative abundance of coral-reef-associated fisheries resources, suggests a loss in the production potential of many fish stocks that are important sources of food, culture, and livelihoods for coastal dependent communities.”

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