Happy New Year, Coral!
Milos Prelevic: Koh Lipe, Thailand, 2018 (Unsplash)
From Yale Environment 360:
There are some hints of hope. The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network report shows that corals can recover globally if given about a decade of reprieve from hot waters. Some spots — particularly the Coral Triangle in East Asia, which hosts nearly a third of global corals — have bucked the trend and seen coral growth. There are hints that corals might be adapting to warmer conditions. And research is burgeoning on creative ways to improve coral restoration, from selectively breeding super corals to spreading probiotics on stressed reefs.
“I’m hopeful,” says Voolstra. But it’s going to take a lot of quick action, he says, and even then we won’t be able to save all reefs. “That’s impossible. The point is you save some reefs so they can go through the dark ages of climate change.”
From 1978, when the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network’s data collection began, hard coral on the world’s reefs held relatively steady for decades. That changed dramatically in 1998 with the first global mass bleaching event. Warm waters around the world caused in large part by a powerful El Niño wiped out about 8 percent of living coral globally, equivalent to a grand total of 6,500 square kilometers. “All the drama started in 1998,” says David Souter, coordinator of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and a researcher at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville. “Corals are actually pretty good at sustaining short, sharp temperature increases, but when it starts to last months, we see real issues.”
Astonishingly, however, by 2010 global coral coverage was roughly back to pre-1998 levels. “That’s good news,” says Souter. “Even though reefs got knocked down, they got back up again.”