UH study: By 2035, half of world’s coral reefs faces major climate change threat, could die off

In just 13 years, half of the world’s coral reefs could permanently face “unsuitable conditions” if climate change continues, according to a new study.
Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 2:56 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 12, 2022 at 7:53 AM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In just 13 years, half of the world’s coral reefs could permanently face “unsuitable conditions” if climate change continues, according to a new study by University of Hawaii researchers.

That’s under a worst-case scenario.

These conditions could likely lead to the death of coral reefs and threaten marine life due to disruptions in the food chain.

“While the negative impacts of climate change on coral reefs are well known, this research shows that they are actually worse than anticipated due to a broad combination of climate change-induced stressors,” lead author Renee O. Setter said.

The environmental stressors that researchers identified from the 1950s through 2100 include sea surface temperature, ocean acidification, tropical storms, land use and human population.

Researchers have discovered several findings about the conditions of coral reefs with the continuing threat of environmental stressors.

The study also found that by 2055, 99% of the world’s coral reefs may be threatened by one at least environmental stressor, and two or more stressors may affect 93% by 2100.

“We know that corals are vulnerable to increasing sea surface temperatures and marine heat waves due to climate change,” said co-author Erik Franklin, associate research professor at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology in UH-Manoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology.

“But it is important to include the complete anthropogenic (environmental change caused or influenced by human activity) impact from numerous stressors that coral reefs are exposed to in order to get a better sense of the overall risks to these ecosystems.”

Researchers are taking that extra step to identify which species may be more at risk, or less at risk of future stressors by studying how climate change may affect an individual coral species.

For a closer look at coral reef shots, click here.