Heatwaves, extreme storms and polar ice losses are often discussed as examples of the effects of climate change. ‘Hidden’ impacts occurring in the ocean may go overlooked, yet they can be some of the most disastrous.
Ninety percent of coral reefs are expected to disappear by 2050 as a result of warming climates. Warm waters ‘bleach’ the corals by driving away the algae that give them their bright colours. This subsequently leads to a loss of fragile species, with 25% of fish spending part of their lives at reefs, whilst the threat to coastal economies with reefs is estimated to be worth $300-$400 billion per year in terms of livelihoods from tourism, fisheries and medicines.
A new initiative however, aims to ‘change the course’ of coral loses and is the first international attempt to safeguard corals. The ‘50 Reefs’ project will see an alliance of oceanographers, conservationists and philanthropists selecting 50 vulnerable coral reefs across the globe in order to test conservation techniques to limit the effects of climate change and pollution.
Techniques that may be tested include no-fishing zones, cutting pollution in coastal seas, finding ways to eradicate non-native fish species or limiting scuba-diving tourism. If the methods are deemed successful, they will be introduced more widely.