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Defending coral reefs

The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), a United Nations supported global data network, reported that 14 percent of the world’s coral on reefs was lost between 2009 and 2018, an area equal to about 11,700 square kilometers.

The report said the world’s coral reefs are under attack by climate change and more will disappear if oceans keep warming.

The study looked at 10 coral reef-bearing regions around the world and found that loss was mainly attributed to coral bleaching, which happens when corals, under stress from warmer water, expel the colorful algae living in their tissues, making them turn white. One severe bleaching event in 1998 alone killed 8 percent of the world’s corals, the study said.

Corals face an “existential crisis” as sea surface temperatures rise. The report spanned data for 40 years, 73 countries and 12,000 sites. Sharp spike in warming are particularly damaging, a phenomenon scientists say is linked to climate change.

The hardest hit areas are South Asia, Australia, the Pacific, East Asia, the Western Indian Ocean, and Gulf of Oman.

While coral reefs cover less than 1 percent of the ocean floor, they support more than 25 percent of marine biodiversity, including turtles, fish and lobsters, which fuel global fishing industries. The reefs are responsible for an estimated $2.7 trillion annually in goods and services, including tourism, the report noted.

On the bright side, scientists did find a 2 percent gain among coral reefs in 2019, showing they can be resilient when given respite from the siege of factors working against them. If pressure is relieved on the coral reefs, they could flourish again within a decade to pre-1998 levels, the report said.

The waters of the Philippines hosts many rich coral reefs. However, when the little that are left that are not threatened by global warming are being indiscriminately destroyed by the island-building activities of China, more has to be done by both government and the private sector to protect our remaining coral reefs and the biodiversity they support so present and future generations can continue to benefit from those valuable natural resources.

Coral reefs take thousands of years to form but can lost within months. When it comes to getting them back, there are no quick fixes. Our only recourse is to do all we can to protect the ones that still exist.*

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