Coral reefs that sustain about one billion people worldwide will be gone by the end of the century unless urgent international action is taken to mitigate climate change, scientists say.
The world is at a “make or break point” when it comes to saving the oceans’ reefs, Erik Solheim, head of the UN Environment Programme, said at an event to mark the start of the International Year of the Reef in Fiji on Wednesday.
Covering less than 0.1 percent of the seabed, coral reefs support about 25 percent of global marine life.
But manmade factors including rising water temperatures caused by climate change, ocean acidification, and destructive fishing practices have led to the demise of many of the world’s coral reefs.
Between 2015 and 2017, a global bleaching event affected all but three of the 29 coral reefs listed by UNESCO as world heritage sites. Coral bleaching is a potentially lethal stress response to overly warm water in which the coral expels symbiotic microalgae feeding it, turning it white.