A status report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) shows that overall, coral reefs in the U.S. are currently in fair condition, but these reefs are vulnerable to severe decline in the near future. This threat is the worst along the Florida coast, where few corals remain, and about 98% of the dead corals in this area were lost because of climate change.

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Prepared in collaboration with the Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the report provides a clear picture on the status of the country’s reefs. The report looks at the coral reefs along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and is the first of its kind to take a comprehensive look at major coral reefs in the U.S., including around the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and Hawaii. Researchers analyzed reef data collected between 2012 and 2018.

Related: The Great Barrier Reef has lost 50% of its corals to climate change

The main threats to the coral reefs in the U.S. include disease, fishing and ocean warming and acidification. NOAA officials say that although the corals are in a fair condition as a whole, their future looks dire. The state of ocean warming and acidification is on the rise in most coastal regions. At the same time, other threats, such as coral disease, are also worsening. To retain and revive the country’s corals, measures need to be put in place to curb the threats.

Jennifer Koss, director of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, said that the threats to coral reefs have increased due to climate change. “It used to be mostly water quality … but now it’s pretty well accepted that it’s predominantly climate change,” Koss said.

Coral reefs are biologically rich zones and account for about 25% of all marine life. They also help protect shorelines from hurricanes and storms. Reefs are even economically beneficial, because they are a rich source of fish and serve as vibrant tourist attractions.

NOAA researchers have now expressed their concerns about the future of corals in the U.S. Following the report, experts are urging agencies, individuals and the federal government to take actions that will protect the remaining coral reefs before it’s too late.


Via The Guardian

Image via NOAA