Jan 4, 2018

Coral reefs are bleaching way more frequently because of global warming

Great Barrier Reef, QLD
Australia
by
Alessandra Potenza
,
The Verge
A researcher from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies surveys the bleached/dead corals at Zenith Reef, in November 2016. Photo: Andreas Dietzel
A researcher from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies surveys the bleached/dead corals at Zenith Reef, in November 2016. Photo: Andreas Dietzel

Corals are bleaching more and more often around the world because of warming ocean waters, a new study shows. Since bleaching can cause corals to die, this means that coral reefs — which provide food and profits for thousands of people — risk disappearing in the future if we don’t stop climate change.

Researchers analyzed data about bleaching events at 100 reef locations around the world from 1980 to 2016. They found that the rate of bleaching has increased more than fourfold in the past four decades — from once every 25 to 30 years back in the 1980s, to once every six years by 2016. That’s because ocean waters are warming up, according to the study published today in Science.

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“The amount of acceleration that we saw was really surprising,” says study co-author Mark Eakin, a coral reef expert and the coordinator of NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch. It “is mind-boggling and very frightening when you consider what that means for the future of coral reefs.”