Environmentalists have been warning for years against the bleaching of corals caused by rising water temperatures. The Coral Triangle is particularly at risk.
Scientists say rising temperatures are harming the reefs
Tiomen island, the Perhentian islands and Pulao Payar off the Malaysian coast have all been affected by the bleaching of the corals. Once extremely popular sites for divers, they have now been closed off indefinitely to give the corals space and time to recover.
Rising sea temperatures is one of the causes behind the bleaching of the corals. When the corals die, only their chalkstone structure remains.
Coral reefs susceptible to bleaching
Coral reefs are expected to become even more susceptible to bleaching in the next 30 years.
Scientists and environmentalists fear that the Coral Triangle could disappear within a century. "If we travel down that road in which we don't take action against climate change to the level that we should, we see a world in which 50 years from now in which coral reefs are a remnant of what they are today, in fact they may be actually functionally extinct," says Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the University of Queensland.
Tourist walk along a beach at Balik Pulau in Malaysia
This would not only be devastating for divers and snorklers but would also have a negative impact on the tourism industry.
Livelihood of millions at risk
Malaysia's diving areas attract some 500,000 visitors every year. Moreover, the coral reefs are the habitat for millions of fish and other species providing livelihood to millions of residents along the shores of the Coral Triangle.
Ove Hoegh-Guldberg says the death of the coral reefs could be catastrophic," By the end of the century under the worst case scenario we could see as much as 90 percent of those food resources as having eroded. You start to see that you're now destabilizing human communities through the fact that there's just not enough food."
Environmentalists say it is not too late to save the corals but there have to be massive efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.
Author: Bernd Musch-Borowska/ act
Editor: Disha Uppal