The worldwide bleaching of coral reefs seems to finally be easing after three years. This is good news for about three-quarters of the world's corals. But unfortunately, this is not enough.
According to U.S. News, the forecast damage of bleaching did not seem to be widespread in the Indian Ocean, which meant that the event lost its global scope. However, it remains bad in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, but not as much as it did in the past three years.
The most damaged reefs remained to be Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the Northwest reefs in Hawaii, Guam and some parts of the Caribbean. These areas have faced back-to-back destruction, up to the point where some of them started to look like ghost towns.
Still, while conditions are improving, it is too early to celebrate. Climate change may have put the world at a new, warmer normal where reefs barely able to survive. Extra heating of water from El Niño, for instance, could nudge coral conditions over the edge.
As Wired reported earlier this year, the survival of the Great Barrier Reef (and others) hinges on stopping global warming. A study published in Nature, authored by 46 scientists, raised some questions regarding long-term conservation plans of the corals. Although it specifically spoke of Australia's reefs, findings in the paper could be applied to reefs worldwide.
Despite the seeming halt of bleaching, scientists believe a fourth mass bleaching would happen sooner rather than later. If this fourth event does happen only a year after three consecutive ones, then it could be a major blow to the reefs that provide farmers much of their income. About 1 billion people utilize these reefs for tourism or fisheries.
For now, observations continue regarding the coral reefs. Scientists have pointed out that they are among the first and most prominent indicators of global warming.