Climate change, reefs and the Coral Triangle
- Find out more from Reefs at Risk revisited in the Coral Triangle [World Resources Institute website]
Impacts of climate change in the Coral TriangleClimate change in the Coral Triangle is already having a big impact on coastal ecosystems by warming, acidifying and raising sea levels. Coral Triangle reefs have experienced severe mass coral bleaching and mortality events as temperatures have periodically soared.
The annual, maximum and minimum temperatures of the oceans surrounding the coastal areas of the Coral Triangle are warming significantly (0.09-0.12 °C per decade) and are projected to increase by 1-4 °C toward the end of this century.
Increases of more than 2 °C will eliminate most coral-dominated reef systems.
These splendid reef systems will disappear if these events continue to increase in intensity and frequency.
Climate change impacts overview:
- Coral Triangle seas will be warmer by 1-4 °C
- Acidic seas will drive reef collapse
- Longer and more intense floods and droughts
- Sea level rise of minimum of 1 metre
- More intense cyclones and typhoons
- More annual climate variability in the Coral Triangle
Important habitats under threatClimate change is also threatening coastal mangroves within the Coral Triangle, which are highly sensitive to rising sea levels. A multitude of other changes are destabilising critically important ecosystems along the coasts.
Stresses arising from climate change are also amplifying the impacts of local stresses, leading to an accelerated deterioration of coastal ecosystems.
But there is some natural resistanceWhile coastal ecosystems are facing enormous pressures from both local and global factors, many areas within ecological resilience are among the most likely to survive the challenging times ahead.
High levels of biodiversity, coupled with fast rates of growth and recovery, put many Coral Triangle ecosystems in a favourable position to survive climate change.
Some parts of the Coral Triangle may have inherently slower rates of change in sea temperature and acidity, representing a potential refuge in an otherwise rapidly changing world.
What needs to be doneIn 2016, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed the 400 parts permillion level (ppm). Stabilising atmospheric carbon dioxide at or below 450 ppm is absolutely essential if Coral Triangle countries are to meet their objective of retaining coastal ecosystems and allowing people to prosper in the coastal areas of the Coral Triangle.
However, climate changes in the Coral Triangle ecosystems are inevitable due to the lag effects of on coastal and marine systems and associated terrestrial habitats.
What WWF is doing about climate change impacts in the Coral Triangle?
WWF/The University of Queensland. 2008. The Coral Triangle and Climate Change: Ecosystems, People and Societies at Risk
Pacific Islands Ocean Acidification Vulnerability Assessment. 2015. Johanna Johnson. Johann Bell, Alex Sen Gupta.