The report Reefs at Risk Revisited has been put together by the World Resources Institute, from the work of twenty conservation organisations. It builds on the initial Reefs at Risk report from 1998 and it doesn’t make good reading for anyone with even a passing interest in marine conservation, identifying three quarters of the world’s reefs as being at risk, mainly due to exploitative fishing, but also from pollution and climate change.
"This report serves as a wake-up call for policymakers, business leaders, ocean managers, and others about the urgent need for greater protection for coral reefs," said Jane Lubchenco, head of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Reefs are increasingly at risk from bleaching events
If climate projections turn into reality, then by 2030 roughly half of the world's reefs will experience bleaching in most years - rising to 95% during the 2050s. In addition, the slow decrease in the pH of seawater as it absorbs more carbon dioxide - usually known as ocean acidification - will compromise calcification.
"Reefs are already being hit by global warming," said Mark Spalding, senior marine scientist with The Nature Conservancy."They are the canaries in the coal mine, super-sensitive to warm summer temperatures, such that even a small background induces bleaching.
It’s not all gloom, though, "There are reasons for hope," said Lauretta Burke, senior associate at WRI and a lead author of the report. "Reefs are resilient; and by reducing the local pressures, we can help buy time to find solutions to global threats that can preserve reefs for future generations."
However, having evaluated more than 2,500 protected areas of reef; the researchers concluded that even though over a quarter of the world's coral is nominally protected; only one-sixth of those areas offer good protection.
"The report is full of solutions - real world examples where people have succeeded to turn things around," said Dr Spalding."However, if we don't learn from these successes then I think that in 50 years' time, most reefs will be gone - just banks of eroding limestone, overgrown with algae and grazed by a small variety of small fish."
You can download the full report or a summary at: