Newswise — EVANSTON, Ill. — A new paper published yesterday in the journal Nature presented findings that, since 2016, half of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef has died. Luisa Marcelino, who was not involved in the study, is available to discuss these findings.

Marcelino is a research assistant professor of environmental engineering in Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering. She studies reef-forming corals, including their associated algae, susceptibility to thermal stress and bleaching.

Quote from Professor Luisa Marcelino
“While it is known that thermal stress triggers coral bleaching and heat exposure thresholds have been identified, the relationship among thermal stress, coral bleaching and mortality has remained elusive mostly due to lack of large surveys of multiple communities affected over time. 

“The Nature paper surveyed the response of more than 3,800 coral communities throughout the Great Barrier Reef to a record-breaking thermal anomaly in 2016. This study identifies a strong relationship among thermal stress, bleaching and mortality and describes several heat exposure thresholds that, once exceeded, will result in increasingly significant mortality. The study also shows that bleaching severity is not the best predictor of mortality since many coral types and genera had high mortality in spite of some showing not so severe bleaching at the time of the survey. It also shows that about 50 percent of the corals in the north of the Great Barrier Reef are dead and urges for the reduction in CO2 emissions that would keep temperatures within 1.5- to 2-degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.”

Marcelino can be reached at [email protected].

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