Several ancient crustaceans went extinct following a massive collapse of coral reefs across the planet, which —according to a new University of Florida research— implies that modern species living in rapidly declining reef habitats, such as Australia’s Great Barrier, are likely to be at risk.
Scheduled to appear in the November issue of Geology, the study shows a direct correlation between the amount of prehistoric reefs and the number of decapod crustaceans, a group that includes shrimp, crab and lobster.
The findings might give environmentalists and the United Nations fresh arguments to ask Australia’s Queensland government to curb ports construction and mining-related projects close to the country’s most renowned natural wonder and the world's largest coral reef system.
Last June, more than 150 marine scientists from 33 institutions signed a letter warning Australian authorities of the mounting threats new coal ports and other industrial projects pose to the reef’s habitat.
In 2012 UNESCO, the UN educational, scientific and cultural arm, sent an inspection team to the area, finding “a continuing decline in the quality of some parts” of the reef. However, the Queensland Resources Council was quick to snub the report.
University of Florida’s study’s lead author, Adiël Klompmaker, said in a statement that if reefs continue to decline at the current rate during this century, “a few thousand species” of crustacean are in real danger of going extinct.
He added that some of his colleagues predict as much as 20% of the world’s reefs may collapse within 40 years, with a much higher percentage affected by the end of the century. However, he explained that the causes would be both natural and human-influenced, such as ocean acidification, diseases and coral bleaching.
The study, the first comprehensive examination of the rise of decapod crustaceans in the fossil record, concludes that modern reefs deterioration will likely cause decrease in the biodiversity of crustaceans, which serve as a vital food source for humans and marine animals, such as fish.
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