Editor’s note: This week Conservation International’s first virtual reality film, “Valen’s Reef,” debuted at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity; watch the film here. Its spectacular setting — eastern Indonesia’s Bird’s Head region — contains some of the most species-rich waters on Earth; it could also hold clues for how to help our oceans adapt to climate change. CI marine scientist Mark Erdmann explains.
In recent months, numerous reports in the media have exposed the alarming levels of climate change-induced coral bleaching on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and many other locales across the Pacific Ocean. Aerial surveys suggest that over 93% of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by bleaching, and Australian experts warn that in many areas this bleaching is so severe that it will likely result in 50–90% mortality of corals.
Indeed, many coral scientists are lamenting that coral-dominated reef systems as we know them will cease to exist within the next few decades — a shift that could spell the end for a number of fisheries and marine tourism industries and cause significant economic hardship and food security problems for tropical countries around the globe.
The overall trend is clear; we must address climate change now or prepare to face a very different world than we now enjoy. However, I also feel compelled to note that there are “bright spots” in our oceans, and that we do still have time to act and conserve some of our most important marine ecosystems.