Study finds global warming is killing the Great Barrier Reef

One of the most iconic underwater reefs in the world is the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. A new study has looked at the effects of global warming on the reef and specifically looked at the record-setting heatwave in 2016 and its effects on the Great Barrier Reef. The results of the study have been published in Nature.

The study says that global warming is emerging as a threat to ecological integrity and function. Coral began to die immediately on reefs where accumulated heat exposure exceeded a threshold of degree heating weeks. That threshold was 3-4 degree Celsius-weeks.

According to the study, after eight months an exposure of 6-degrees Celsius-weeks drove an "unprecedented, regional-scale shift in the composition of coral assemblages." Specifically, the fast-growing staghorn and tabular corals suffered a catastrophic die-off. That die-off transformed the three-dimensionality and ecological functioning of 29% of the 3,863 reefs that compromise the largest coral reef system in the world.

The authors of the study say that it bridges the gap between theory and practice of assessing the risk of ecosystem collapse under the framework of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Ecosystems. Study authors stat that the increasing prevalence of post-bleaching mass mortality of corals is a radical shift in the disturbance regimes of tropical reefs.

Global warming far exceeds the influence of recurrent cyclones and other local pulse events and poses a fundamental long-term change to the reef ecosystems according to the study. The study abstract offers no solution to reversing or stopping the damage.

SOURCE: Nature