Washington: A new study has revealed that Australia's Great Barrier Reef could lose 90 percent of its living corals if ocean warming continues.
In the study that aims to project the composition of the future Great Barrier Reef under current and future environmental scenarios, researchers at James Cook University found that in the long term, moderate warming of 1-2 degrees Celsius would result in a high probability of coral cover declining to less than 10 percent, a number thought to be important for maintaining reef growth.
Lead author Jennifer K. Cooper said that the model indicated that warming of an additional 1-2 degrees Celsius would more than likely lead large decline s in coral cover and overall changes to the community structure and if their model is correct the Great Barrier Reef will begin to look very different as ocean temperatures increase.
Co-author John Bruno said that even the massive, remote, and intensely managed Great Barrier Reef is being degraded by human activities. Losing the GBR and other reefs would be a massive blow to marine biodiversity and to the people that depend on healthy reefs for food, tourism, and protection from storms.
Co-author Matthew Spencer said that the findings are not only important for predicting reef futures under climate change but could also be applied to other ecosystems and the beauty of this study is that the same approach should work for other systems, provided enough data are available.
He added that their next plan is to use it to model the dynamics of European forests.
The study is now in pre-print online in the journal Ecology.