Mass bleaching events of unprecedented scales are being experienced right around the world. But what exactly is bleaching, and why is this such a concern?
Corals and algae form the base of ocean food webs and provide homes and nursery grounds to many species of fish. In fact, one third of all saltwater fish species live at least part of their lives on coral reefs. An estimated one billion people have some dependence on coral reefs for food and income from fishing.
Humans can help, particularly by setting up marine protected areas – underwater national parks – where fishing is forbidden. Not only do they allow local reefs a chance to recover, but they can seed nearby areas with coral larvae.
But in the end, the fate of coral reefs comes down to global warming. The sooner we get to managing reefs well, the better condition they will be in, and therefore better able to cope with the warming. We can act quickly on the local impacts to give them breathing space while we work hard at building global agreements and bring down CO2 emissions.
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