SCIENCE

Global Coral Reefs To Take A Hit For Third Consecutive Year

  • Osvaldo Nunez , Design & Trend Contributor
  • Jun, 20, 2016, 10:34 PM
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Coral Reef
(Photo : Wikipedia) NOAA has listed 20 corals as threatened.

Coral reefs once rich with life are now desolate thanks to rising ocean temperatures on account of the most powerful El Nino on record.

Federal officials said that the bleaching event started in 2014 with an abnormally strong El Nino. It is the largest ongoing event ever recorded. Forecasters expect a change from El Nino to La Nina. However, the warm waters will either remain, or move to different regions throughout 2016.

Mark Eakin, coordinator for NOAA's Coral Reef Watch program, said that almost all the reefs in the United States would suffer from bleaching. Places like Hawaii and Florida are already suffering, noted Eakin. "Two of the areas we're especially concerned about right now are Hawaii and Florida," Eakin said. "There's already been a lot of coral loss, and a lot of corals show signs that they'll continue to be bleached.

"It's not likely to be as severe as last year according to the models, but time will tell," said Eakin. "It's very important for the managers to be ready for the fact that this may be a third year of bleaching."

As periods of bleaching extend to consecutive years, widespread mortality of reefs continues to increase. Scientists said that the issue is the extended period of bleaching; otherwise, coral would be able to recover on its own.

As ocean temperatures continue to rise, widespread bleaching events will become more frequent. A study published in April by "Science" found that carbon emissions would also be responsible for deterioration of coral reefs. In fact, if global carbon emissions continue to rise, scientists expect the coral cover in the Great Barrier Reef to collapse by the middle of the century.

"We [the coral reef community] are working toward making reef systems as resilient as possible," Eakin said. "That means taking local action to reduce all of the other stressors, including land-based sources of pollution and overfishing."

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