Coral reefs are one of the most productive and biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, they need constant climatic conditions to function as they are very vulnerable habitats. They cover vast tropical marine habitats (as can be seen in figure 1) however they are largely changing due to increases in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and the effects of global warming. As a result lots of data has been collected on the past extent of coral reefs (so we can use this to see how they may be effected in the future), their current status and predicting future trends in how they may change. Some of the papers that cover this are: Hughes et al (2003), Hoegh-Guldberg (1999), Hoegh-Guldberg et al (2007) and Silverman et al (2009).
Hughes talks about the value of coral reefs and how there are no pristine corals left in the world, the report also states that the area of the earth’s surface that they inhabit has already declined by 30%. It states how in the past there has been debate over whether global warming is linked to coral bleaching and how this can no longer be disputed as the link between the two is certain.
Hoegh-Guldberg has written two notable papers about coral reefs and the effect co2 and global warming has on them. The first of these talks about how the capacity for acclimation of corals has probably already been exceeded and that their adaption will be to slow to be able to cope with the levels of change they will experience. The second paper talks about how anthropogenic climate change has almost pushed carbon dioxide concentration to 400ppm, 100ppm higher than it has been over the past 740,000 years if not the last 20 million. During the 20th century oce...
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...ne to corals. All of these effects put together are causing the degradation and destruction of our corals to the point where they could become extinct in out near future. Coral reef have extremely high economic value to the world, as can be seen in figure 5. Costing the world billions (as coral reefs value is around $29.8 billion annually) due to increased floods, loss of food and business for many smaller vulnerable coastal communities because in some parts of the world they are the main source of protein for up to 1 billion people. There is also around 80% of the species in coral reefs that we don’t know about yet and in them could be medicines and cures for diseases that could be exploited sustainably. If we continue at our current rate, as can be seen form past trends and recorded present levels, the future projections of how our corals will react is devastating.
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