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Last year, a bold initiative set out to locate coral reefs most likely to survive global warming. That turned out to be far easier said than done – but now scientists hope the results will rally attention to regions where there’s hope to save crucial marine ecosystems.

It was only after coral reef ecologist Emma Kennedy accepted a postdoctoral position at a prestigious research group in Australia that she learned details of her assignment.

Working with a team of top scientists led by her boss at the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, she and a colleague would have a year to develop of list of 50 coral reefs that had the best shot at surviving climate change until – or if – global temperatures stabilized under the terms of the Paris climate accord. Identifying those reefs now could help rally people to protect them from more prosaic but still deadly threats like overfishing and pollution. The thinking was that larvae from those reefs could also help repopulate other reef areas that don’t survive.

It was always going to be a bold endeavor, but at first, Kennedy thought the idea of picking 50 reefs in a year was more like mission impossible.

“I went home and thought maybe I should quit now because it’s just too big of a challenge,” she said.

A flurry of attention followed when the 50 Reefs project laid down its own gauntlet in a public announcement. With half of coral reefs lost around the world in the last 30 years and up to 90 percent projected to die in the next, the initiative brought in three foundations, a team of more than a dozen scientific advisers and major conservation groups in an urgent, collaborative effort to create the “first global plan to save the most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet,” according to the February 2017 press release.

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Read more: Inside the Mission to Find 50 Reefs That Could Survive Climate Change

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Shorter-lived species might have more time to adapt to changes in ocean pH than longer-lived species. NYT PIC

JUST as humans rely on their sense of smell to detect suitable food and habitats, avoid danger, and find potential mates, so do fish — only instead of sniffing scent molecules floating through the air, they use their nostrils to sense chemicals suspended in water.

Read more: Fish to lose sense of smell?

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A flooded rice field. Credit: Photo: Nonie Reyes / World Bank

The world population is expected to grow to almost 10 billion by 2050. With 3.4 billion more mouths to feed and the growing desire of the middle class for meat and dairy in developing countries, global demand for food could increase by between 59 and 98 percent. This means that agriculture around the world needs to step up production and increase yields. But scientists say that the impacts of climate change—higher temperatures, extreme weather, drought, increasing levels of carbon dioxide and sea level rise—threaten to decrease the quantity and jeopardize the quality of our food supplies.

Read more: How climate change will alter our food

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