Global warming is streaming into ecosystems across the globe; the temperature-related effects of global warming on coral reefs are highly visible, well-defined, and filled with lengthy documented studies.
ArtTour International was able to access a recent study on the long terms effects of the reef crisis by Ocean and Earth Science scholar Jasmine A. Godbold.
According to the study, the connection between rising CO2 levels, rising ocean temperature, and the biological responses of reefs are known in detail, providing a well-grounded basis for future prediction.
The consequences of coral reef destruction would not be limited to the loss of the value of goods and services, for the demise of reefs would also mean the extinction of a large part of the Earth’s total biodiversity – something never experienced before in human history.
“The more recently recognized effects of atmospheric CO2 on ocean acidification will have even more profoundly detrimental long term effects on reefs, but the full range of biological responses is, as yet, incompletely understood.”
As of now, an estimated 19% of the world’s coral reefs have been lost, and a further 35% are seriously threatened (Wilkinson, 2008).
The speed at which climate change is impacting reef ecosystems leaves little opportunity for evolutionary processes to come to the aid of corals and other reef inhabitants as they would have done over geological intervals of time. Survival will be highly dependent upon any natural resistance already existing in the gene pools today. Some management interventions will, for a time, increase reef resilience, the most important of which are (a) reducing the harvest of herbivorous fish to sustainable levels (Hughes et al., 2007), (b) maintaining an effective trophic pyramid by protecting sharks and other top predators, (c) managing all aspects of water quality and (d) minimizing any other direct anthropogenic impacts and stressors.
Anthony, K., Kline, D., Diaz-Pulido, G., Dove, S., and Hoegh-Guldberg, O. (2008). Ocean acidification causes bleaching and productivity loss in coral reef builders. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105, 17442–17446. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0804478105
Babcock, R. C. (1991). Comparative demography of three species of scleractinian corals using age-and size-dependent classifications. Ecol. Monogr. 61, 225–244. doi: 10.2307/2937107
Baker, A., Glynn, P. W., and Riegl, B. (2008). Climate change and coral reef bleaching: an ecological assessment of long-term impacts, recovery trends and future outlook. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci. 80, 435–471. doi: 10.1016/j.ecss.2008.09.003
Barnes, D. D., and Chalker, B. B. (1990). “Calcification and photosynthesis in reef-building corals and algae,” in Coral Reefs. Ecosystems of the World, Vol. 25, ed Z. Dubinsky (Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Publishing), 109–131.