Coral reefs around the globe already are facing unprecedented damage because of warmer and more acidic oceans. It’s hardly a problem affecting just the marine life that depends on them or deep-sea divers who visit them.
If carbon dioxide emissions continue to fuel the planet’s rising temperature, the widespread loss of coral reefs by 2050 could have devastating consequences for tens of millions of people, according to new research published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS.
To better understand where those losses would hit hardest, an international group of researchers mapped places where people most need reefs for their livelihoods, particularly for fishing and tourism, as well as for shoreline protection. The researchers combined those maps with others showing where coral reefs are most under stress from warming seas and ocean acidification.
Countries in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines would bear the brunt of the damage, the scientists found. So would coastal communities in western Mexico and parts of Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia. The problem would affect countries as massive as China and as small as the tiny island nation of Nauru in the South Pacific.