Gulf Coast Corals Face Potential Catastrophe

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AAAS published an article detailing South Central CASC-supported research on Gulf Coast corals and the harm they face under a changing climate.

Read the original article published by AAAS here.

A new study by researchers at Rice University and partner universities states that coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico may face catastrophe in the near term – perhaps even in the next 20 years. Colleagues from Rice, the University of Texas-Austin, and Louisiana State University pulled together evidence from extensive analysis on stressors of Gulf Coast corals. They found that the majority of these reefs from Texas to Florida are in “poor to fair” condition and that even hitting the emissions targets outlined in the Paris Agreement might not be enough to save them. Coral reefs play a huge role in the world not just ecologically but also economically. Coral reefs support the world's fisheries, protect coastlines from stormsurge, and promote tourism.

Researchers looked at worst-case emissions scenarios and scenarios with medium climate change abatement, but found that in both scenarios, heating rates would be high enough to expect almost complete coral bleaching throughout the Gulf of Mexico. 

Read the paper in Frontiers in Marine Science here.

This study was funded in part by the South Central CASC.

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Image: Black Coral Living in the Gulf of Mexico

These 2- to 3-m-tall orange-colored, black coral trees (Leiopathes cf. glabberima) growing near Viosca Knoll in the Gulf of Mexico are among the oldest living organisms on Earth. 

(Credit: Ken Sulak, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.)