The world's first comprehensive coral reef health study raises the alarm: rising temperatures linked to the climate crisis wiped out 14% of marine ecosystem biodiversity between 2009 and 2018 - and the trend is in a steady increase
The United Nations funded the drafting of a detailed report on the health of the world's oceans and, in particular, coral reefs: it emerges that the most serious threat to the survival of reefs is the increase in water temperature, caused by human activities. Between 2009 and 2018, the ever-increasing temperatures of the oceans caused massive 'bleaching' of the corals, which were unable to recover from the damage.
The study, which involved more than 300 scientists around the world and collected data from 12,000 natural sites, also points the finger at practices that are destructive to the environment - such as coastal exploitation, lowering of water quality, intensive fishing. or by trawling - which have contributed to the loss of coral reefs in recent years. According to the authors of the study, this loss could cause incalculable damage to the entire marine ecosystem: in fact, although corals cover just 1% of the ocean floor, they support about 25% of the animal and plant species that live in the seas.
The report highlights the rapid decline of the coral reef everywhere in the world, corresponding to the equally rapid increase in temperatures in the sea: this indicates the vulnerability of corals to heat peaks - phenomena that will become increasingly frequent with the progressive warming of the planet. Since 2009 there has been a drastic reduction in the sea area occupied by corals: between 2009 and 2018, the world area occupied by corals went from 33.3% to 28.8% - a reduction of about 11,700 square kilometers of coral (corresponding more or less to the entire mass of corals present in the Australian coral reef).
Coral reefs, in addition to being a precious resource for marine ecosystems, are also a litmus test of the health of our planet and indicate how serious the situation actually is. Such an important decrease in the number of corals present in our oceans is a wake-up call not to be underestimated.
We still have a little time - says Inger Andersen , executive director or the United Nations Environment Program. - We can still recover what we have lost, but only if we act now. At upcoming conferences on climate and biodiversity, the mighty of the earth will have the opportunity to make concrete commitments to save coral reefs, but only if they are brave enough. We cannot afford to leave a world without coral to future generations.
The next events mentioned by Andersen are the UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP 15), to be held in Kunming (China) from 11 to 15 October, and COP26 in Glasgow, from 31 October to 12 November.