What are coral reefs?
Tiny polyps (coral) build reefs by using limestone skeletons
Algae helps the coral by using photosynthesis to give them food
Polyps make waste products that help the algae
That is called a symbiotic relationship
How does global warming affect coral reefs?
When oceans get too warm the algae is released from the tissue, which causes coral bleaching.
If sea temperatures rise as little as 1° or 2°C there is a risk of a major bleaching event
If the temperature rises 3° or 4°C, the algae will never return.
It takes about 5 years for a reef to recover
The Great Barrier Reef is about to have its 3rd bleaching event in 6 years. Many scientists don't think that the reef will ever recover.
Coral reefs are also more likely to get diseases brought on by climate change/pollution
When the oceans have too much acid in them (ocean acidification), it makes it difficult to build reefs
15% of the world's coral reefs are lost already
And over half will be gone by 2050
How does this affect us?
The ecosystem will be damaged
The wildlife that lives in the reefs will be lost. Many organisms depend on reefs for shelter.
We'll also lose income from tourism
Coasts will be unprotected from storms and hurricanes (coral reefs absorb most of the power)
WHAT IS OCEAN ACIDIFICATION?
Oceans help regulate the temperature by absorbing carbon dioxide
Because there are more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, oceans now absorb more carbon dioxide.
This causes the oceans pH levels lower, which means there is more carbonic acid in the water
WHY IS THIS BAD?
The acid breaks down the shells and skeletons of calcifiers (crustaceans, echinoderms, etc.)
The entire food chain will be thrown off
WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
It's unknown how many reefs will survive
Severe bleaching will occur every year on 99% of the world's coral reefs in less than a century if trends continue
Annual bleaching will start in 2043
If countries cut more carbon than they agreed to in the Paris Agreement, then reefs would have about 11 more years to adapt
But still more than 3/4 of the world's reefs will bleach every year before 2070
"Coral Reefs on a Changing Planet." Windows 2 the Universe. Windows to the Universe, Feb.-Mar. 2011. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.
Shulman, Seth. "Coral Doctor." Union of Concerned Scientists. Union of Concerned Scientists, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.
"Dialogue | Why Is Ocean Acidification Caused by Global Warming Such a Serious Problem?" Union of Concerned Scientists. Union of Concerned Scientists, 2011. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.
Cool, Johnny. "Posts about Effects on Cool Kids For A Cool Climate." Cool Kids For A Cool Climate. Cool Kids For A Cool Climate, 7 Dec. 2016. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. "Future of coral reefs under climate change predicted: High-resolution predictions of annual coral bleaching can help prioritize reefs for conservation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 January 2017.