Coral reefs, among the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth, are under threat due to the changing climate.
Coral reefs, among the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth, are under threat due to the changing climate. In a new study, an international research team found that if reefs were to disappear entirely, it may take millions of years — even after environmental conditions improve — for them to recover.
The scientists analyzed fossils from an ancient shallow sea in modern-day China that captures the end-Permian extinction event and its aftermath some 250 million years ago. They found that after other marine ecosystems had recovered, it took millions of years for biodiverse reefs to rebound. They reported their findings in the journal Geology.
“Our work suggests that if we damage ecosystems to the point of extinction, we can’t assume that biodiverse ecosystems can recover rapidly after conditions improve,” said corresponding author Brian Kelley, assistant professor of geosciences at Penn State. “It could take millions of years for complex and fragile ecosystems to come back to their pre-extinction levels. It suggests that if we can’t stop the degradation of modern reefs, it could take millions of years for them to recover.”
Read more at: Penn State University
Limestone in the Great Bank in Guizhou in southern China captures a record of the end-Permian extinction and the Triassic recovery interval. This geological snapshot was once an ancient shallow sea and provides information on how coral reefs recovered. (Photo Credit: Provided by Brian Kelley . All Rights Reserved.)