By Stephen Leahy
FORT LAUDERDALE, U.S., Jul 10 (IPS) – One third of reef-building corals already face extinction because of climate change, the first-ever global assessment has found.
Reefs are made up of hundreds of coral species, and a two-year study to determine the current status of corals has discovered that 231 of the 704 species assessed will be “red-listed” Thursday. This means these 231 species meet the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Criteria for species at risk of extinction in the near future.
Previously, only 10 species of corals had been red-listed, mainly because no proper assessment had been done before.
“We were not expecting the numbers to be that high,” said Suzanne Livingstone of the IUCN’s Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA) in Norfolk, Virginia. The paper was published Thursday in Science.
If the same assessment of corals had been done 20 years ago, only 13 of the 704 species would have been red-listed, Livingstone told IPS at the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. However, in that short time span, climate change has warmed the oceans and begun to make them more acidic and corals are suffering.
“It’s frightening when you think about it,” she said.