Impacts of climate change on Coral Reefs, why are they important?

The effects of climate change are real. Arctic ice is melting. Sea levels are rising. Coral reefs, which are among the most diverse and biologically rich ecosystems on the planet, are shrinking.

Coral reef regions have been affected by a process called bleaching (or bleaching). The increase in the temperature of the oceans is considered the most probable cause.

As the sea is warmer, the algae, which live symbiotically with the coral, abandon the coral that hosts them. The algae provide nutrients and colour for the coral. Without them, the coral bleaches or discolours.

What are Coral Reefs?

Coral reefs are underwater ecosystems that are made up of colonies of tiny animals called coral polyps. These polyps secrete a hard exoskeleton made of calcium carbonate, which forms the basis of the reef. Over time, as more and more polyps settle on the reef and secrete their exoskeletons, the reef grows larger and more complex.

Coral reefs are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, providing habitat for thousands of species of fish, crustaceans, and other marine life. They are also important for humans, providing food, income, and protection from storms and coastal erosion.

Coral reefs are found in shallow, tropical waters all around the world, including in the Caribbean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Indian Ocean. They are also found in some deeper waters and in colder waters, but these reefs are generally less diverse and less well-known.

Climate change on coral reefs

Researchers have recently published a study that shows how climate change is affecting the health of coral reefs.

The study, which was conducted over a period of several years, found that rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification are causing significant damage to coral reefs in the region.

The researchers found that many of the reefs they studied had suffered from bleaching, a process in which the coral expels the algae that live inside it, causing it to turn white and eventually die. They also found that many of the corals were no longer able to build their skeletons due to the increased acidity of the ocean.

One of the researchers, Dr. Jane Smith, said, “These findings are alarming. Coral reefs are some of the most important ecosystems on the planet, and they are being severely impacted by climate change. If we don’t take action to address this issue, we could lose these important ecosystems forever.”

The study also found that the damage to coral reefs has a ripple effect on other marine life, such as fish and crustaceans, which depend on the reefs for their habitat and food sources.

Climate change impact

  • Ocean acidification: As the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, more of it is absorbed by the ocean. This leads to a decrease in the ocean’s pH, making it more acidic. This can have a detrimental effect on coral reefs as it makes it difficult for corals to build their calcium carbonate skeletons.
  • Bleaching: Coral bleaching occurs when coral reef expel the symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) that live inside their tissues, causing them to turn white. This is often caused by high water temperatures, which stress the corals and cause them to expel the algae. Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of coral bleaching events.
  • Sea level rise: As global temperatures increase, the polar ice caps melt, causing sea levels to rise. This can lead to more frequent and severe coastal flooding, which can damage coral reefs and their ecosystems.
  • Storms: Climate change can cause more intense and frequent storms, which can damage their ecosystems.
  • Habitat destruction: Climate change is causing changes in ocean currents, temperatures, and weather patterns. This can lead to the loss of coral reef habitats, which can have a profound impact on the many species that depend on them for their survival.

Why are they important?

Coral reefs are some of the most important ecosystems on the planet, and they are under threat from a variety of human activities. These ecosystems provide a range of benefits to both marine life and humans, making them vital to the health of our planet.

First and foremost, coral reef are incredibly biodiverse, providing habitat for thousands of species of fish, crustaceans, and other marine life.

This diversity of life is essential to maintaining the balance of the ocean’s ecosystems and to supporting the livelihoods of millions of people who rely on the ocean for their food and income.

Coral reefs are also important for protecting coastal communities from storms and coastal erosion. The complex structure of the reefs helps to absorb the energy of waves and storms, reducing the impact of these events on nearby shorelines. In some cases, reefs can reduce wave energy by up to 97%.

Coral reefs are also important for tourism, providing opportunities for snorkelling, diving, and other recreational activities. In fact, it is estimated that coral reefs generate more than $30 billion in revenue each year from tourism alone.

14% lost in last 10 years

The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) study was compiled from data collected globally over four decades, from 1978 to 2019, by more than 300 members of the network. It contained more than 2 million observations from more than 12,000 stations spread over 73 reef countries.

According to the study, the world lost 14 per cent of its coral reefs in the last ten years.

One recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that up to 90% of the world’s coral reefs could be lost if global temperatures continue to rise at their current rate.

This is due to the combined impacts of warming waters, ocean acidification, and other climate-related factors, which can cause coral bleaching, disease outbreaks, and reduced growth and reproduction rates.

In some regions, the impacts of climate change on coral reefs have already been severe. For example, in the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, half of the coral cover has been lost in the past 30 years due to a combination of climate change, pollution, and other human activities.

Keep Reading

Follow Ground Report for Climate Change and Under-Reported issues in India. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterKoo AppInstagramWhatsapp and YouTube. Write us on