05/01/2017 16:49 GMT | Updated 05/01/2017 16:49 GMT

99% Of Coral Reefs Will Be 'Severely Bleached' If We Don't Act Now

"Conventional conservation is not going to cut it."

New climate projections for the world’s coral reefs reveal a grim future for the underwater cities.

Already under threat from overfishing and irresponsible tourism, the reefs are especially vulnerable to climate change because they are so sensitive to warm water.

When sea temperatures rise, the algae which give coral its bright colours leave their hosts, causing the coral to look white and devoid of colour - hence the term “bleaching”. This loss of algae makes it more susceptible to starvation and disease.

Coral reefs provide hundreds of millions of people with food, income and coastal protection, as well as being home to more than a quarter of all marine life. 

“We are going to need to be much more innovative and proactive if we want to see coral reefs thrive into the next century,” says World Wildlife Fund (WWF) lead marine scientists Dr Gabby Ahmadia.

Ahmadia, who co-authored the study, which was backed by UN Environment, WWF and the University of Miami, adds: “Conventional conservation is not going to cut it against the impacts of climate change. We need to embrace the new climate reality to guide efforts to save our oceans.”