HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Coral reef habitats are important marine ecosystems. They’re nurseries for young fish and feeding grounds for larger predators.
But new research led by University of Hawaii researcher Renee Setter puts their very future in doubt.
The scientists projected that over the next two decades, a staggering 70% to 90% will disappear because of rising ocean temperatures and acidity.
And by 2100, they predicted, few if any coral habitats could remain.
“By 2100, it’s looking quite grim,” said Setter, a biogeographer at the University of Hawaii Manoa.
“Trying to clean up the beaches is great and trying to combat pollution is fantastic. We need to continue those efforts. But at the end of the day, fighting climate change is really what we need to be advocating for in order to protect corals and avoid compounded stressors.”
The research was recently presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in California.
To conduct the study, Sutter and her colleagues mapped what areas of the ocean would be suitable for coral in the coming decades. As the years ticked on, fewer and fewer viable areas remained.
Coral reefs are already feeling the impacts of warming ocean temperatures and pollution, including in the islands. Over the summer, record highs contributed to a widespread coral bleaching event.