The future for coral reefs

Reef resilience is the ability of coral reefs to recover from natural or human induced disturbances and it is usually measured by the amount of time it takes coral colonies to repopulate after such disturbances. It is clear that climate change and anthropogenic activities are already negatively impacting the world’s coral reefs and reducing their resilience and the threat is likely to grow over the next several decades as global warming continues and human populations increase. Predicting future impacts of climate change on coral reefs is difficult due to uncertainty about political response, future technologies and changes in human behaviour however predictions suggest that we could lose complete coral reef ecosystems by the end of the 21st century as a result of climate change. Forecast models of increasing ocean temperatures and coral bleaching indicate that under most ocean warming scenarios, mass bleaching will happen nearly every summer by 2030.

If corals are constantly exposed to the stresses caused by extreme human activity and climate change, whole coral communities may lose their ability to recover and die and nothing could then be done to save them. The main changes that need to be made to save coral reef ecosystems are global changes such as cutting back emissions and changing peoples’ attitudes towards climate change and exploitation. Coral reefs need to be exploited in a sustainable manner; fishing and fishing practises must be monitored and regulated, tourism related activities such as snorkelling, diving and boat anchoring should also be controlled so that corals do not incur any unnecessary physical damage, but most importantly, more studies must be done to provide a better understanding of the effects of human activity on coral reef ecosystems to improve our ability to manage reef exploitation sustainably.

Let's keep coral reefs looking like this!

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