Experts say one-third of the oceans' coral reefs face extinction by the
middle of the century if nothing is done to save them. The reefs are
home to a vast array of sea creatures, which experts say would also be
endangered by the loss of the reefs. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.
group of thirty nine leading coral experts from around the world
sounded the alarm in the first-ever global assessment of coral reefs.
Corals are tiny sea creatures that lay their skeletons down to form large reefs that have been built over millions of years.
Carpenter of Old Dominion University in Virginia led the study,
published this week in the journal Science, on the threat to the
world's coral reefs, which are produced in tropical and sub-tropical
seas in coastal waters.
Carpenter says steps must be taken now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stop over-fishing and pollution of the oceans.
we do not do those things, then, at the current level of how things are
going, we will probably lose our coral reefs by the middle of this
century," Carpenter said. "So, 2050 is the date that many people
are predicting that coral reefs will cease to exist."
Carpenter says, as ocean temperatures rise, corals throw off algae attached to them that are essential for their survival.
when you see a coral, it's tan or green or some colorful color," he
said. "But when they expel their algae inside of them, then they become
white. And this is a phenomenon known as bleaching. Another
consequence of higher temperatures is increased disease, and this can
cause mass die off."
Carpenter says the coral reefs at greatest risk of extinction are the most common - the branching or staghorn coral.
According to the report, the Caribbean has the greatest number of threatened coral species.
report also lists corals within the Pacific's Indo-Malay-Philippine
Archipelago as threatened because of large concentrations of people.
Experts say more than 25 percent of marine species depend upon the reefs for their survival.
Carpenter says humans also depend upon coral reefs.
are important for food and important for other types of livelihoods," he said. "So, if we lose the ecosystems, we lose not only the
biodiversity, but we also lose the capability of people to obtain
income and food from coral reefs."
However, Carpenter says he
and other marine biologists believe the coral reefs can be rescued
through targeted conservation efforts and a reduction in greenhouse gas
Earlier this week, a U.S. government report said
nearly half of coral reefs in U.S. government territory are in poor or