Coral reefs are dying around the United States and will largely disappear in a few decades because of global warming, oceanographers are warning.
They say strong conservation measures were not good enough to help coral reefs around Hawaii and more bleaching of corals around Hawaii and Florida is expected as ocean water continue to warm, reported The Guardian.
"The idea we will sustain reefs in the U.S. 100 years from now is pure imagination," Kim Cobb, an oceanographer at Georgia Tech, told The Guardian. "At the current rate it will be just 20 or 30 years, it's just a question of time. The overall health of reefs will be severely compromised by the mid-point of the century and we are already seeing the first steps in that process."
Georgia Tech researchers reported in April that about 80 percent of the corals at Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, the world's largest coral atoll, were dead and 15 percent were bleached.
"Aside from their sheer beauty and appeal, coral reefs provide a host of ecosystem services that are critical to a healthy ocean," Cobb said. "When remote reefs like Christmas Island succumb to acute temperature stress, it's a wake-up call for the rest of the world's reefs, which will come under increasing stress from climate change."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last year that the world's oceans have been fighting its largest and most damaging coral bleaching event in recorded history since 2014.
The NOAA predicted then that coral reefs would likely be exposed to above average sea temperatures for an unprecedented third year in a row, leading to increased bleaching.
"Corals depend on colorful photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae for food and oxygen," NOAA said. "When exposed to stress, like the extended periods of elevated sea surface temperatures predicted in the bleaching forecast, corals lose these symbiotic algae. This loss exposes coral's white calcium carbonate skeleton, giving the coral a 'bleached' appearance."
According to The Guardian, coral reefs are found in less than one percent of the world's oceans but support a variety of life, with around a quarter of all marine species relying upon it for food or shelter.
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