Editorial: Climate Change is Killing Coral Reefs

Lauren Cribbs, Reporter

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One in five of the ocean’s coral reefs have been severely damaged or lost. In 20 to 40 years, another 35% of reefs could vanish. 

Climate change is a serious issue that is drastically impacting the ocean’s coral reefs.

Greenhouse gases, caused by daily human activity, has caused, among other things, ocean acidification. Acidification is a process where carbon dioxide is absorbed into the water from the atmosphere. According to the National Ocean Service, the carbon dioxide can, “Reduce calcification rates in reef-building and reef-associated organisms by altering seawater chemistry through decreases in pH.”

Climate change also causes an increased intensity in tropical storms. This contributes to the destruction of coral reef ecosystems to a point beyond saving.

Coral reefs provide the people with goods and even potential cures for several diseases, but no one has shown any interest in caring. These reefs are the homes and food supply for many organisms in the ocean, and without these organisms a domino effect will occur – changing how we view the ocean.

Another problem created for coral by climate change is bleaching. Bleaching, in a simplistic way, means the coral life is being starved, depriving it of necessary nutrients. Symbiotic algae produces the food that coral needs to survive. According to Time, “Coral gets stressed and kicks the algae out, which turns the coral white and essentially starves it to death.” Coral bleaching makes the coral appear dead, taking away all of the beautiful colors. Bleaching is only getting worse and will continue to get worse as many areas are not recovering.

Ocean temperatures are rising due to climate change. When the water temperatures rise it causes ice sheets to melt, increasing the amount of water in oceans. Coral is not able to grow fast enough to compensate for rising sea levels. Also due to sea levels rising, there is an increase in sedimentation which can potentially smother coral located close to land.

According to an interview conducted by The Guardian, Chris Perry, a professor at Exeter University, said, “It was found that only 9% of […] reefs had the ability to keep up with even the most optimistic rates of sea-levels rising forecasted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” Rising sea levels are just one of the many effects climate change has on the destruction of coral.

The Coral Restoration Foundation collects money for the restoration and protection of coral reefs. Donations can help to save the ocean’s coral.