The Great Barrier reef nearly died off at the start of the Last Interglacial period some 129,000 to 121,000 years ago, a recent study published in the journal Global and Planetary Change reports.
The destruction was the result of rapidly rising seas caused by melting glaciers and a receding polar ice sheet. Such processes were the result of rising global temperatures, which were much higher during that time. However, while the shifts threatened the natural structure, the reef managed to withstand the changes and was able to stabilize before it became completely destroyed.
Researchers from the University of Sydney analyzed core samples taken from the reef in both the 1970’s and 2015. The sets showed that the modern reef is under a lot of the same threats that it was during the Last Interglacial period — but things are much worse today. Not only are sea levels currently on the rise, but pesticide run-off and dredging from mining works also are threatening the area, Tech Times reports.
In addition, a recent study from the University of Miami shows that reefs around the world will start to experience bleaching every year by 2043. That will alter the makeup of the areas and cause changes to their ecosystems, coastal protection, and fisheries.
Conservationists believe that human impact mixed with climate change and a lack of enhancements to reef management could cause sea-level increases to drown the reef for good.
“It is imperative that we take these predictions seriously and that, at the very minimum, we meet the targets of the Paris Agreement,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, according to The Christian Science Monitor. “Doing so will buy time for coral reefs and allow us to plan for the future and adapt to the present.”