Crunch Time: Coral reefs are "zombie ecosystems"


Lord Howe Island Lagoon coral. Image: Southern Cross University (AFP)

This summer we are experiencing Previews of the coming warmer and more turbulent climate. While the boomer generation, myself included, will be less impacted, the younger generation will have to struggle through the severe effects of climate disruption and certainly won't be happy with us. Indeed, I can already sense the coming climate trials over the next a decade or two will make the tobacco trials of the 1990’s seem like child’s play. 

For the world' coral reefs, we are beyond Previews and into Crunch Time. While the official line remains “there is still hope,” according to ecologist Roger Bradbury, writing in the Op Ed page of The New York Times, we are kidding ourselves: 

IT’S past time to tell the truth about the state of the world’s coral reefs, the nurseries of tropical coastal fish stocks. They have become zombie ecosystems, neither dead nor truly alive in any functional sense, and on a trajectory to collapse within a human generation. There will be remnants here and there, but the global coral reef ecosystem — with its storehouse of biodiversity and fisheries supporting millions of the world’s poor — will cease to be.

This is less a conspiracy than a sort of institutional inertia. Governments don’t want to be blamed for disasters on their watch, conservationists apparently value hope over truth, and scientists often don’t see the reefs for the corals.

But by persisting in the false belief that coral reefs have a future ...

Learn more at A World Without Coral Reefs. Also, see a more hopeful view