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Ocean's S.O.S: Urgent Call to Save Coral Reefs from Bleaching Crisis

a bleached coral reef
Coral Bleaching. Photo by Thomas Owen on Unsplash

The recent announcement from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) underscores a concerning reality: the world is currently in the midst of its fourth global coral bleaching event, the second in the past decade.

Driven by escalating ocean temperatures, this heightened heat stress is expected to affect vast areas across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans over the next year. Already, bleaching has been observed in 54 countries. This event could potentially be the largest coral bleaching event on record, posing a significant threat to coral reef ecosystems valued at £2.7 trillion annually. These ecosystems support nearly 1 billion people, providing livelihoods, food security, and coastal protection.

This announcement highlights the urgent need for a global effort to identify and protect the world's most climate-resilient coral reefs. Dr. Stacy Jupiter, Executive Director of WCS Marine Conservation, emphasises the importance of collaboration involving donors, governments, researchers, civil society, and communities reliant on reef ecosystems.

Dr. Emily Darling, Director of Coral Reefs at WCS, stresses the unprecedented nature of current temperatures and the critical importance of preserving climate-resilient coral reefs. These resilient reefs, identified through research, demonstrate various forms of resilience: avoidance, resistance, and recovery.

Efforts are underway to train scientists across the Coral Triangle to monitor coral bleaching and identify resilient reefs. Utilising shared methods and data platforms like MERMAID, the focus is on pinpointing these resilient reefs for inclusion in national biodiversity plans.

Dr. Darling underlines the need for immediate action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and prioritise the conservation of resilient coral reefs.

For those interested in supporting coral reef conservation and protecting marine biodiversity, resources are available through Shark Guardian in addition to WCS. It's crucial to recognise that the impact of coral bleaching extends beyond coral alone, affecting entire ecosystems upon which species like sharks depend.

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a rashguard on a man
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