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This
issue is incredibly urgent, especially to areas such as Southeast Asia that are
the most at risk. In the last 27 years more than 50 percent of hard coral cover
has been lost (De’ath et al., 2012). Once an ecosystem is pushed too far it
suddenly undergoes rapid change into a drastically different state, which is
extremely difficult to recover from. If this happens to the oceans,d we will
lose coral reefs forever. They are already near their thermal limit, so it will
not take much more to push them past it. Unless coral starts to rapidly change
their limits, conditions will inevitably cause the destruction of these reefs (Hoegh-Gulfberg
et al., 2007). There is also no guarantee that these assumptions are not an
underestimate of the future impacts of climate change. For this reason, it is
crucial to be even more conservative in our actions than deemed necessary (Shah,
2013).

This
matter is extremely difficult to resolve as you cannot solve a global problem
with local policy. Therefore, no matter how much one community cares, without
the support of the entire world nothing can be done. This makes matters
difficult because it is already hard enough to get a single country to get
behind an issue, getting every country behind it would be nearly impossible. At
this time approximately 1/5th of coral reefs have been destroyed,
with an additional 24 percent facing imminent risk of collapse all due to
humans (Shah, 2013).

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Coral
reefs cannot adapt fast enough to keep up with this rapid change. Coral needs a
steady environment, whether it is light, temperature, pollution, excess
sediment, or fishing practices, they are easily affected by even the smallest
of changes in their environment (“Coral Reefs-Marine Life,” n.d.). Coral rely
on warm, clear, still water, with steady sunlight and salinity to thrive (Weier,
2001). Even if they do manage to survive minor thermal stress they will be lead
to an increased risk of disease, leading to their depletion.

Bleaching
has become a major issue, especially since 1998, and in 2010 there was a mass
coral death in the Southeast Asian Ocean and Indian Ocean reefs due to bleaching
in the region. One of the reasons it is so challenging to prevent bleaching
from happening is that it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of it (Shah,
2013). Coral is highly sensitive to ocean acidification, this leads to a
decrease in diversity and reefs that cannot maintain themselves. Changes in
ocean acidity will vary around the globe, leading to uninhabitable conditions
in some areas faster than others. As Hoegh-Gulfberg et al. (2007) explained, “The concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere
now exceeds 380 ppm, which is more than 80 ppm above the maximum values of the
past 740,000 years, if not 20 million years.” This change is caused by humans. In
no other time in history has any species been able to cause such levels to
appear. Increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere lead to increased sea
levels and ocean temperatures. It also depletes the levels of Carbonate
concentration in the seawater and the acidity. Clearly the conditions coral
reefs are facing today are unprecedented, so they have not had a chance to adapt
to these conditions, and therefore are unable to handle them. A lower
concentration of carbonate-ions means a lower rate of calcification of marine
organism’s. Reef-building corals
respond to reduced calcification with less linear growth, skeletal density, or
reduced carbonate saturation. Lower skeletal density means a heightened risk of
damage by storms and easement of the erosion process. Decreased carbonate
saturation causes a greater energy level to be needed for calcification, so
resources are diverted from reproduction (Hoegh-Gulfberg et al., 2007). It is
predicted that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will exceed 450 parts
per million by 2040, if this happens coral reefs will be extinct by 2100
regardless of additional carbon emissions (“Threats and Consequences,” n.d.).
This shows that if people do not act quickly there will be nothing left that
they can do.

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