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Undersea forests, bleached and killed by rising ocean temperature, might disappear in a few decades, experts warn.

 Bleached coral in Guam in 2017. Photograph: David Burdick/AP Bleached coral in Guam in 2017. Photograph: David Burdick/AP

Children born today may be the last generation to see coral reefs in all their glory, according to a marine biologist who is coordinating efforts to monitor the decline of the world’s most colorful ecosystem.

Global heating and ocean acidification have already severely bleached 16 to 33% of all warm-water reefs, but the remainder is vulnerable to even a fraction of a degree more warming, said David Obura, chair of the Coral Specialist Group in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

“It will be like lots of lights blinking off,” he told the Observer. “It won’t happen immediately but it will be death by 1,000 blows. Between now and 2 degrees Celsius, we will see more reefs dropping off the map.”

Obura added: “Children born today may be the last generation to see coral reefs in all their glory. Today’s reefs have a history going back 25 million to 50 million years and have survived tectonic collisions, such as that of Africa into Europe, and India into Asia. Yet in five decades we have undermined the global climate so fundamentally that in the next generation we will lose the globally connected reef system that has survived tens of millions of years.”

The warning follows a landmark UN climate report that upgraded risk assessments for corals following faster-than-expected global bleaching. Scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that if warming reached 2C, currently very likely in the next 50 years, there would be a more than 99% chance that tropical corals would be eradicated.

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Source: The Guardian | 11 November 2018

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