Illustration of a coral reef with a close-up view highlighting the symbiotic relationship between coral and microalgae known as zooxanthellae

CORAL REEFS FACE IMMINENT COLLAPSE DUE TO CLIMATE CRISIS

April 15, 2024, marked the announcement of the fourth mass coral bleaching event, threatening over half of the world's coral reefs. In 2023, Caribbean waters experienced temperatures four degrees Celsius higher than the historical average, a level of warming not anticipated until 2050, according to Professor Lorenzo Álvarez Filip from the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology at UNAM.

In 2015, nearly 200 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to keep the global average temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels by 2099. Surpassing this limit could trigger irreversible consequences, including a significant rise in sea levels and the near-total eradication of coral reefs. However, last year saw a temperature increase of 1.48 degrees, and 2024 is predicted to be even hotter, making it likely that we will breach the critical 1.5° threshold for the first time.

On April 15, the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed the onset of the fourth mass coral bleaching event. Mexico is already experiencing this phenomenon. Lorenzo Álvarez Filip, who conducts research at UNAM's Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology, has observed a decline in coral reef health near his research center, likening his dives to swimming in a graveyard.

The Mexican Society of Coral Reefs reported that 2023 was a catastrophic year for Mexico's coral systems. Extreme weather events led to the death of millions of corals and widespread destruction of reefs.

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The current state of coral reefs has raised concerns among scientists, as these organisms are crucial for many marine species and for maintaining ecological balance. Despite ongoing protective measures, the future of coral reefs and marine ecosystems is at risk unless comprehensive actions are taken to fight climate change and protect these vital species.

In light of this, Professor Álvarez Filip emphasizes the importance of preserving coral reefs and is focusing his research on heat-resistant species as a potential strategy to combat climate change. However, global efforts are needed to stop the damage to these vital ecosystems that are essential for both marine and human life on Earth.