Recent studies have found that the world’s coral are in considerable danger of disappearing due to a number of environmental pressures. These pressures include fishing, pollution, disease and ocean acidification. Overall, an estimated seventy-five percent of the world’s coral reefs are at risk. Ocean acidification is a growing problem, a problem which is only expected to be heightened as the century progresses.
The natural pH of seawater is 8.2. Since the industrial age, the pH of the world’s oceans has decreased by 0.1 down to 8.1. The world’s oceans have absorbed approximately half of all carbon dioxide emissions which have been emitted across the globe. Some studies have found that the world’s oceans are upwards of twenty-five percent more acidic today than it was prior to the Industrial Revolution. As carbon dioxide emissions are continuing to increase, the problem is only expected to worsen for the world’s oceans and coral reefs.
With this in mind, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the United States for listing eighty-two coral species under the Endangered Species Act back in 2009. The organization is responsible for a number of petitions for listing species under the ESA, including a number of coral in the past which have subsequently gained protection, such as elkhorn coral and staghorn coral.
The organization stated: “Coral reefs are home to twenty-five percent of marine life and play a vital function in ocean ecosystems. Since the 1990s, coral growth has grown sluggish in some areas due to ocean acidification, and mass bleaching events are increasingly frequent.”
Scientists for the National Marine Fisheries Service have recently concluded their study evaluating the eighty-two coral species. They found that forty-six of the species were “more likely than not” to become extinct by the year 2100 due to climate conditions. An additional ten were deemed “likely” to become extinct by the year 2100.
In the report the scientists stated: “The combined direct and indirect effects of rising temperature, including increased incidence of disease and ocean acidification, both resulting primarily from anthropogenic increases in atmospheric CO2, are likely to represent the greatest risks of extinction to all or most of the candidate coral species over the next century.”
The government will be accepting public input before declaring whether any of the species will be listed under the ESA and when they will begin attaining protection.