London: The beautiful Great Barrier Reef in Australia might soon be a wonder that the future generation may never see.
An expert has warned that time was running out for the reef, with just a decade’s time left to save it.
“If we continue to release CO2 into the atmosphere at current rates, a tipping point will be reached within 10 years beyond which ocean warming will occur no matter what humans do from that point, reducing the reef's chances of survival,” New Scientist quoted Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the University of Queensland, as saying at the Greenhouse 2011 conference in Cairns.
Biologists had previously believed that corals might be able to handle rising ocean temperatures by exchanging the symbiotic algae they rely on for their energy with other species that function efficiently at higher temperatures.
Recent studies, however, suggested that this was possible for only the 25 percent of the world's coral species that host multiple species of algae rather than just one.
The remaining species would have to ‘migrate their way out of trouble’ instead, said Hoegh-Guldberg.
Under current rates of warming, he estimates, corals would have to move southward at a rate of 15 km per year to stay cool.
"Individual coral larvae can travel great distances, but the entire reef system can't. The uncomfortable conclusion is that we might lose the reef," he said.
First Published: Sunday, April 10, 2011, 18:15