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Webinar: Vulnerability of U.S. Coral Reefs to Climate Change under the COP21 Paris Agreement

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Wednesday, 11 January 2017, 1:30

Wednesday, January 11, 2017. 1:30 PM. Webinar: Vulnerability of U.S. Coral Reefs to Climate Change under the COP21 Paris Agreement. Jeffrey Maynard, SymbioSeas and the Marine Applied Research Center, Wilmington, NC.Sponsored by NOAA's National Ocean Service Science Seminar. More information here.


Increasingly frequent severe coral bleaching is among the greatest threats to coral reefs posed by climate change. Global climate models (GCMs) project great spatial variation in the timing of annual severe bleaching (ASB) conditions; a point at which reefs are certain to change and recovery will be limited. However, previous model-resolution projections (~1x1°) are too coarse to inform conservation planning. To meet the need for higher-resolution projections, we generated statistically downscaled projections (4-km resolution) for all coral reefs; these projections reveal high local-scale variation in ASB. Timing of ASB varies >10 years in 71 of the 87 countries and territories with >500km2 of reef area. ASB timing under RCP8.5 varies >30 years among U.S. coral reefs.

Emissions scenario RCP4.5 represents lower emissions mid-century than will eventuate if pledges made following the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21) become reality. These pledges provide reefs with more time to adapt and acclimate prior to severe bleaching conditions occurring annually; the amount of time varies greatly among U.S coral reefs from 2->40 years. Reefs in central Florida and NW Hawaii benefit most from the emissions reductions pledges becoming reality with a projected ASB timing >30 years later projected under business-as-usual RCP8.5). We are generating climate impact summaries for all U.S. coral reef jurisdictions that will describe the downscaled bleaching projections along with thermal history, and projected sea level rise and ocean acidification. Coral reef futures clearly vary greatly among and within the U.S. and other countries, indicating the projections warrant consideration in most reef areas during conservation and management planning.

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