Scientists survey 500 million corals in Pacific Ocean, more than expected

Sydney, Australia, Mar 2 (efe-epa).- A scientific study published Tuesday counted the number of corals in the Pacific Ocean at 500 million, a higher number than previously estimated, giving hope for the survival of several threatened species.

Research shows that each of the eight of the most common species in the Pacific Ocean has a population of more than 7.8 billion – roughly Earth’s population – according to a statement from Australian James Cook University.

It also said that of the 80 species considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature at high risk of extinction, the population of 12 of them is more than 1 billion colonies, according to co-author Sean Connolly, from the university’s Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

“For example, finger corals (Porites Porites) or Porites Nigrescens are among the 10 most abundant species that we have examined. Although they are not considered highly susceptible to bleaching, they are on the [union’s] list,” the Smithsonian Research Institute expert said.

This study, which analyzed more than 300 coral species on reefs between Indonesia and French Polynesia, suggests that while local loss of corals can be devastating for reefs, the risk of extinction for most coral species it is less than previously calculated.

For another of the co-authors, Terry Hughes of the JCU Center of Excellence, although corals are not facing imminent extinction, there is still time to protect them from anthropogenic warming through “rapid action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

“We would need to grow about 250 million adult corals to increase the coverage in the Great Barrier Reef by just one percent,” Hughes said, considering the restoration of these organisms is not a solution.

The results of this first census of corals that inhabit the Pacific is crucial to efforts to conserve corals, whose populations have declined due to the increase in ocean temperatures caused by climate change.

“We need to know the abundance of species in order to assess their risk of extinction,” study leader Andy Dietzel of the coral research center said. EFE-EPA


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