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34. Is there still hope for the world’s corals? (Mike Emslie)

July 2023


Historically, the oceans have received too little attention in discussions about the environment and biodiversity. On the topic of biodiversity loss in particular, however, one marine system has attracted almost as much attention as the rainforests: coral reefs. Coral reefs have even been described as the rainforests of the sea, thanks to their remarkably high levels of biodiversity. Recently, United Nations agencies have been voicing the alarming prediction that the world could lose as much as 99% of its corals within decades, if there is a 2 degree centigrade increase in average global temperature. Meanwhile, however, on the world’s largest reef system, the Great Barrier Reef, a 2021 survey had more positive news. It found that hard coral cover, which is used as a proxy for the health of coral reefs, is at its highest levels since the 1980s. That’s despite global temperatures already having risen by one degree over the past century. So, is the public being misled by messages of doom and gloom? Or are these seemingly contradictory messages somehow reconcilable?

With me to answer this central question about corals is Mike Emslie. Mike is head of the Great Barrier Reef Monitoring Programme and senior researcher at the Australian Institute for Marine Science (AIMS).


02:29 What are corals, where are they found, and why are they important?

11:28 What's special about the Great Barrier Reef and the "coral triangle"?

18:00 Why are coral reefs particularly important, among marine ecosystems?

23:19 How can we be losing corals if they are recovering on the biggest reef system in the world?

39:19 Are coral bleaching events a new thing?

41:09 Are we focusing enough on helping reefs to adapt to climate change, versus mitigating climate change?

44:20 Reasons to avoid doom & gloom messaging

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