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Rising Ocean Temperatures Have Killed 14% of Global Coral Reefs, NOAA Reports

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the US Commerce Department and its global partners have released the most comprehensive analysis of coral reef health “ever undertaken,” The Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2020.

Its findings? “Rising ocean temperatures resulted in a 14% loss of global corals.” On the brighter side, the partnership found indications of “coral resilience in some locations,” indicating that coral reef recovery is possible “if immediate steps are taken to curb future ocean warming.”

“People around the world depend on healthy coral reefs and the services they provide for food, income, recreation, and protection from storms,” stated Jennifer Koss, director of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program. “It is possible to turn the tide on the losses we are seeing, but doing so relies on us as a global community making more environmentally conscious decisions in our everyday lives.”

Fragile beauty of sea anemones and coral ©Cocoparisienne/Pixabay
Fragile beauty of sea anemones and coral. ©Cocoparisienne/Pixabay

The unprecedented report analyzed data from about two million observations, which were produced by more than 300 scientists and collected from more than 12,000 sites in 73 countries over a period of 40 years (1978-2019).

According to the report, coral reefs grow in over 100 countries and territories, supporting at least 25% of marine species, and are foundational to coastal ecosystem resilience as well as the food and economic security of hundreds of millions of global citizens. Goods and services provided by coral reefs are estimated at US$2.7 trillion per year.

The report declares coral reefs to be “among the most vulnerable ecosystems on the planet to anthropogenic pressures,” citing climate change, ocean acidification, marine pollution, certain fishing practices, and local land-based pollution such as inputs from agriculture as detrimental influences.


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