Researchers have been worried for years that the rise in global temperatures will wipe out coral reefs. Indeed we've watched the negative effects of warming water on coral reefs from bleachings to mass die-offs. However, new research shows that this isn't the first time harsh temperatures have hit corals hard. They were able to bounce back then, so there is hope for a return again.
Yale Environment 360 reports , "An increase in ocean temperatures that occurred 4,000 years ago triggered a collapse of coral reef systems in the eastern Pacific that lasted for about 2,500 years, according to a new study. In an analysis of 17-foot core samples taken from the frameworks of coral reefs off the Panama coast, scientists from the Florida Institute of Technology found that the reefs stopped growing during a period that coincided with the start of a period of dramatic swings in the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, including periods when ocean temperatures elevated significantly. They say this gap in growth also occurred in reef systems as far away as Japan and Australia."
The study provides a silver lining to today's suffering coral reefs -- they might be able to come back yet again.
“Even conservative models of climate change predict a return to extreme weather conditions,” said the lead author, Richard B. Aronson, a professor of biology at the Florida Institute of Technology, says in a New York Times article. “This means that reefs could shut down. The hopeful part is that these reefs did prove to be resilient 1,500 years ago. Reefs today could recover, but only if we get a handle on the greenhouse gases causing climate change.”