Australian researchers say climate change will reduce biodiversity by as much as 30 per cent in the next century
LONDON, United Kingdom – A team of Australian researchers has predicted that by 2065, Australia’s current coral reefs will have fallen to levels not seen since the early 1900s.
Australia’s National Coral Reef Conservation Authority (NCRCA) said the study, published online by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found coral reefs that survive the worst of climate change could be as much lost as those that survived past the 1960s.
The study’s lead author, Andrew Jorgensen, a marine biologist at the University of Western Australia, said coral reefs in Australia are a “living, breathing organism” and “can withstand an ocean warming of as much or more than the entire world’s oceans”.
“These reefs are the living, breathing organisms that we need to be able to rely on in a climate that is changing,” he told the BBC.
“Coral reefs are resilient to the impact of global warming because they have been protected by a combination of the land and sea.”
The land is a little more than a million square kilometres [about 8 million square miles] of protected areas and the sea is about half that, and we have a huge amount of land that has been used as cover.
“He added that coral reefs were also “frequently affected by coastal erosion and storm surges”.
The study said that the “tidal stresses that can occur from sea level rise can also disrupt the resilience of coral reefs”.
Jorgensen said Australia had already seen some of the impacts of climate changes in the past, including the “predictable loss of coral in some of our estuaries and the rapid erosion of reef ecosystems”.
The research project, which will be published in the journal Nature Communications, uses “a suite of models and computer simulations” to “evaluate the effects of climate variability on coral reef communities”.
Professor John Stokes, an ecologist at the Australian National University’s Department of Ecology and Fisheries, said he was “really impressed” by the study.”
I think this paper is a real step forward and it shows that we have some really interesting ideas on how to manage these very complex systems,” he said.”
We don’t have any other research that has done any real work on how we could manage coral reefs.””
What I like about this paper, I think, is the fact that they really take the modelling and run it in a real way and actually show what the impacts are,” he added.