Known for providing colorful habitat for diverse marine life, coral reefs are alarmingly under the looming threat of global warming. On May 30, scientists and reef experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report that states conditions of the reefs are unsustainable and their disappearance could happen within decades in U.S. waters and around the world!
The effects of global warming, such as the gradual increase of ocean temperatures, have caused the decline of coral reefs. Worldwide, 70 percent of these habitats have been jeopardized by BLEACHING—the visual deterioration in coral reefs, noted by loss of color. Warmer waters prevent the reef's photosynthetic algae from surviving. This algae not only provides food and oxygen but also the renowned hues of the coral.
In 2016, the famous Australian Great Barrier Reef suffered greatly when two-thirds of the 1,400-mile reef became bleached. Experts also predict bleaching for American reefs around Hawaii, Florida, Puerto Rico and Guam. According to the newly released NOAA report, “As of May 2017, the ongoing global coral bleaching event continues to be the longest, most widespread, and most damaging on record. It has affected more reefs than any previous global bleaching event and has been worse in some locales (e.g., Great Barrier Reef, Kiribati, Jarvis Island.)”
Coral bleaching have affected American reefs before. From 2014 to 2015, nearly 90 percent of Hawaiian reefs were afflicted. In response the state enacted environmental protections such as no-fishing zones; however, 47 percent of corals remained bleached, and approximately another 10 percent were deemed nearly decomposed. “I’m concerned because we could very well see bleaching return to Florida, parts of the Caribbean and Hawaii,” said Mark Eakin, a coral reef specialist at NOAA “U.S. reefs have taken a severe beating. We are looking at the loss or at least severe degradation…in the coming decades.”