Coral reefs in Indian Ocean 'at high risk of collapse'

i24NEWS

4 min read
An oil spill off the East African coast in the Indian Ocean, August 10, 2020.
Nik Cole/Mauritian Wildlife Foundation via APAn oil spill off the East African coast in the Indian Ocean, August 10, 2020.

The reef systems are at risk of becoming extinct by the 2070s mostly due to global warming and overfishing

Coral reefs in the western Indian Ocean are at high risk of collapse in the next 50 years, according to an assessment.

According to the study, the reef systems are at risk of becoming extinct by the 2070s mostly due to global warming, overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction.

The report suggested that it would result in a huge loss of biodiversity, threatening the livelihoods and food sources for hundreds of thousands of people, The Guardian reported.

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Published in the journal 'Nature Sustainability,' the study examined coral reefs in 10 countries around the western Indian Ocean.

It found that reefs around island nations were highly threatened by rising water temperatures which cause more bleaching events - when corals expel algae living in their tissue, making them turn white.

Reefs in eastern and southern Madagascar, the Comoros archipelago off Africa’s eastern coast, and the Mascarene Islands were all classified as critically endangered. 

Other reefs along the entire east African coast were also classified as vulnerable to collapse, The Guardian reported.

David Obura - chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and who led the study - said that the global decline of coral reefs was established already. 

“The most urgent threat is from climate change up to 50 years from now,” Obura said.

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However, he noted that the recent assessments provided greater clarity of the causes and extent of the damage, The Guardian reported.

“The collapse of a reef means it becomes functionally extinct as a reef system. You might still find some species there, but they won’t be able to construct a reef anymore,” Obura said.

“All of the services we get – coastal protection from sea-level rise, tourism, fisheries… are at risk,” he added.