Researchers predict that ocean acidification will be another serious threat facing coral reefs. As oceans absorb increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, water acidity increases and pH decreases, severely impacting corals' ability to build their skeletons that form the foundation of reefs.
The 39 scientists who co-authored this study agree that if rising sea surface temperatures continue to cause increased frequency of bleaching and disease events, many corals may not have enough time to replenish themselves and this could lead to extinctions.
"These results show that as a group, reef-building corals are more at risk of extinction than all terrestrial groups, apart from amphibians, and are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change," said Roger McManus, CI's vice president for marine programs. "The loss of the corals will have profound implications for millions of people who depend on coral reefs for their livelihoods."
Coral reefs harbor fish and other marine resources important for coastal communities. They also help protect coastal towns and other near-shore habitats from severe erosion and flooding caused by tropical storms.
Staghorn (Acroporid) corals face the highest risk of extinction, with 52 percent of species listed in a threatened category. The Caribbean region has the highest number of highly threatened corals (Endangered and Critically Endangered), including the iconic elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) which is listed as Critically Endangered. The high biodiversity "Coral Triangle" in the western Pacific's Indo-Malay-Philippine Archipelago has the highest proportions of Vulnerable and Near-Threatened
|Contact: Susan Bruce|