From the vast turquoise expanses of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to remote coral atolls in the Indian Ocean to the cold water species of the North Atlantic, coral reef ecosystems are amongst the most crucial in the world’s oceans. As the International Year of the Reef 2018 draws to close, Parley looks back on the good news, the bad news, and why so many dudes are suddenly bleaching their hair.
Research & Discovery
• At the start of the year, coral biologists estimated that reefs across the Asia-Pacific region are littered with more than 11 billion pieces of plastic larger than 5 centimeters. To make matters worse, corals with plastic on them were 20 times more likely to be diseased than those that were not polluted.
• Shortly thereafter, The Pew Charitable Trusts observed that deep-sea coral ecosystems may hold cures to cancer, but face many threats.
• More recently, nearly 200 species of Great Barrier Reef corals were discovered to have found a second home in the deep ocean – six times as many species as previously thought to be living in the dark, cold waters off northeastern Australia.
• Just this week, an underwater garden with more than 100 unnamed species of corals, lobsters and molluscs was discovered on undersea mountains south of Tasmania.
Climate Change & Reef Protection
• In September, UNESCO announced that under a “business-as-usual climate scenario”, all 29 World Heritage-listed coral reef properties are expected to experience annual severe bleaching this century, leading to dramatic deterioration in ecological function.
• 2018 saw a record surge in the creation of marine protected areas globally, but a shocking new analysis of European sanctuaries found that marine life was better off outside such areas.
• In May, the state of Hawaii banned reef-killing sunscreens, and in October the pacific island nation of Palau become the first country to do so. Common sunscreen chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found to increase coral bleaching.
• Promisingly, researchers at Duke University found that human efforts to protect corals can be useful.
• Finally, 2018 saw a new tipping point in pop cultural crossover as “Party Bros” Chad and Jesse dedicated their hearts and domes to fighting coral bleaching…