Coral Reefs Are in Serious Trouble, But Scientists Believe There’s Still Hope

Coral reefs around the world are continuing to change and suffer the consequences of warming waters, but scientists believe there’s still hope if we’re quick to take meaningful action to protect them.

In a study just published in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers say reefs are rapidly changing to cope with environmental pressures, and although some may not be fully restored, there is still time to ensure reefs stay functional, which will benefit both marine ecosystems and the people who rely on them.

“The reefs of the future will be radically different from today or 30 years ago,” said lead author Professor Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE).  “But, if we take the right steps immediately, we can – and must – secure a future for reefs, recognising that the possibility of restoring them to their former condition is no longer possible.”

Coral has a symbiotic relationship with tiny algae, known as zooxanthellae, that provide it with food and give it its color. When coral is stressed because of high ocean temperatures, or other causes, it expels the algae living in its tissues, which exposes its white skeleton, otherwise known as bleaching.

These bleaching events are occurring on a massive and unprecedented scale and devastating coral reefs in oceans around the world. While warming waters are now the biggest threat, they’re also threatened by many other man-made problems.

“It’s death by a thousand cuts,” said co-author Professor Jeremy Jackson, from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. “Reefs suffer simultaneously from dredging, overharvesting, pollution, sewage, sediments, and steadily increasing temperatures.”

The authors write that reefs are going to “run the gauntlet” of climate change over the coming centuries and they’ll be transformed, and while returning them to their past condition isn’t going to be an option, we can still work towards maintaining their biological functions.

“We can’t save every species or turn back history,” said Hughes. “The challenge now is to steer reefs into the future, to ensure that they remain fully functional, and to retain their ability to support the livelihoods and wellbeing of the 100s of millions of people who depend on them.”

The study’s authors are calling for radical changes in the “science, management and governance of coral reefs around the world,” and are particularly optimistic that the Paris Climate Agreement will play a significant role helping them survive by steering us away from dangerous levels of warming.

“They’ll be different, but recognisable as coral reefs. However, if COP21 fails badly, coral reefs as we know them today will be destroyed,” said Hughes.

Unfortunately, President Trump’s announcement to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement puts the future health of us, the environment and the economy at risk.

Photo credit: Terry Hughes/Coral CoE


Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O1 years ago

People in the US are worried due to their president, but in Australia we have an Indian bloke, along with certain political persona,l who are hell bent on totally destroying the Great Barrier Reef! We the people are still fighting as hard as possible for this not to go ahead....but...

HEIKKI R1 years ago


Mark D
Mark Donner1 years ago

Adani the Indian coal mafia criminal, and the corrupt elements of Australia's government are conspiring to destroy the Great Barrier Reef with a giant coal mine.

Despite their announcements, it's not a done deal.

"the Federal Government will still need to pass changes to the Native Title Act, and to make a decision on whether to provide a $1 billion concessional loan to the project.
It’s also unclear whether Adani has secured finance to build the mine.
Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters said the announcement was a “PR stunt to squeeze a $1 billion handout from Australian taxpayers”.

Adani is still waiting for a decision from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility on whether it will be granted a $1 billion concessional loan funded by taxpayers. The loan would help pay for a new 189 kilometre rail line to link the mine to the coal terminal at Abbot Point.

“This so-called final investment decision is meaningless, Adani is still broke, and 19 banks have refused to fund their deadly mega-coal mine,” Ms Waters said.

“Today’s announcement does not mean the mine will go ahead, it’s a grab for a $1 billion handout of public funds from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.
“This is desperate PR stunt from a desperate company trying to squeeze even more freebies f

earthism info
earthism info1 years ago

coral reefs will survive if we minimize ocean acidification

Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga1 years ago


Jetana A
Jetana A1 years ago

That's better news for coral reefs than I had previously read.

Patricia H
Patricia Harris1 years ago

Frances Bell, nevertheless, I will keep on fighting tooth and nail until the US finally comes to it's senses.

Frances Bell
Frances Bell1 years ago

here's the thing though - we can do this without the US. If all the countries in the world realise that Trump is an idiot and we don't have to follow his example, there is hope for us yet.

Angela K
Angela K1 years ago

thanks for sharing