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2016-04-09. Climate-Related Death of Coral Around World Alarms Scientists.

posted Apr 12, 2016, 9:13 AM by Alan Gould

By Michelle Innis, The New York Times. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7. Excerpt: SYDNEY, Australia — Kim Cobb, a marine scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, expected the coral to be damaged when she plunged into the deep blue waters off Kiritimati Island, .... Still, she was stunned.... “The entire reef is covered with a red-brown fuzz,... It is algae that has grown over dead coral. It was devastating.” The damage off Kiritimati is part of a mass bleaching of coral reefs around the world, only the third on record and possibly the worst ever. Scientists believe that heat stress from multiple weather events including the latest, severe El Niño, compounded by climate change, has threatened more than a third of Earth’s coral reefs. Many may not recover. Coral reefs are the crucial incubators of the ocean’s ecosystem, .... An estimated 30 million small-scale fishermen and women depend on reefs for their livelihoods,.... The largest bleaching, at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, was confirmed last month. In a survey of 520 individual reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef’s northern section, scientists from Australia’s National Coral Bleaching Task Force found only four with no signs of bleaching. ...half the coral they had seen had died.  ...A large underwater heat wave formed in the northeastern Pacific in early 2014, and has since stretched into a wide band along the west coast of North America, .... Then came 2015, with the most powerful El Niño climate cycle in a century. ...“We are currently experiencing the longest global coral bleaching event ever observed,” said C. Mark Eakin, the Coral Reef Watch coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Maryland. “We are going to lose a lot of the world’s reefs during this event.” Reefs that take centuries to form can be destroyed in weeks....  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/10/world/asia/climate-related-death-of-coral-around-world-alarms-scientists.html