Global warming is transforming the Great Barrier Reef


2018.04.18 #world heritage #UNESCO #climate change #ocean

In a recent publication on the journal Nature, the authors mapped the geographical pattern of heat exposure from satellites, and measured coral survival along the 2,300-km length of the Great Barrier Reef following the extreme marine heatwave of 2016. The result shows that in the aftermath of the record-breaking marine heatwave on the Great Barrier Reef - a world heritage site - in 2016, corals began to die immediately on reefs where the accumulated heat exposure exceeded a critical threshold of degree heating weeks, which was 3-4 °C-weeks. After eight months, an exposure of 6 °C-weeks or more drove an unprecedented, regional-scale shift in the composition of coral assemblages, reflecting markedly divergent responses to heat stress by different taxa. Fast-growing staghorn and tabular corals suffered a catastrophic die-off, transforming the three-dimensionality and ecological functioning of 29% of the 3,863 reefs comprising the world's largest coral reef system.

The researchers warn that failure to curb climate change, causing global temperatures to rise far above 2 °C, will radically alter tropical reef ecosystems and undermine the benefits they provide to hundreds of millions of people, mostly in poor, rapidly-developing countries.

Please refer to Science Daily for a more detailed analysis

(Hughes (2018) Global warming transforms coral reef assemblages. Nature (556) 492-496)