The media tends to portray science in a certain way, the way that sells big news and big disaster. We’ve all heard, the climate is warming and coral reefs are in danger – but to what extent? Will there be no corals left in the world? Scientists and the media attempt to communicate the evidence as best they know how, but in reality no one is really giving a clear picture. The truth of the matter is, no matter what the fate of corals in the near future, our dependency on coral reefs as a food and service provision is increasing, while the coral reefs ability to provide is decreasing. Effectively, we are reducing the stress threshold of corals through overexploitation of the services they provide.
However, it is unrealistic to think that corals will go extinct anytime soon; they have survived 256 million years and periods of severe climate change. What we do know is that some species of corals are more vulnerable to stress than others, these tend to be those with the greatest complexity in structure which host the greatest biodiversity. Potentially this has severe implications for food security in an ever-expanding population. If we can’t protect reefs, then we need to start thinking about how we can feed the half a billion people whose daily lives depend on them.
The underlying message is that corals probably won’t die out, however the shape of reefs as we know them will change drastically and their ability to provide us with resources that we have become accustomed to and dependent on will diminish; leaving us as the losers – we won’t be the first species to eat itself out of house and home that’s for sure.
Follow me @MoralCoral