And bleached corals are pretty much dead.
The Great Barrier Reef’s massive loss to coral bleaching last year might have been just a taste of things to come. According to a study by a team of marine scientists, 99 percent of the world’s coral reefs could undergo severe coral bleaching before the century ends. The culprit? Climate change. When sea water in a certain location turns warmer than usual, corals in that area expel the algae living in their tissues, effectively turning them white. That’s what bleaching is. It doesn’t instantly kill the corals, but it makes them much more vulnerable to fatal diseases.
The researchers believe coral reefs around the globe will start going through annual severe bleaching by mid-2050s. Since reefs serve as whole ecosystems, their deaths will also kill a lot of other organisms. In their paper, the scientists call for “adaptive resilience-based management of reefs,” which involve “shaping human-environment interactions through management actions that reduce sensitivity to climate threats.” In other words, there’s really no solution other than to do what we can to mitigate the impacts of climate change. You can read the scientists’ study that’s backed by UN Environment, World Wildlife Fund and the University of Miami on Nature.