Asian coral die-off could be worst ever; Is climate change to blame?

By John Platt

A massive coral bleaching event in Southeast Asian reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans is the worst coral die-off since 1998, and possibly the worst science has ever observed, says Andrew Baird of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.
Bleaching occurs when environmental factors stress the living organisms residing within coral reefs, causing them to either leave their reef structures or die. The reefs, which turn white, or are bleached, become unable to support the myriad biodiversity that rely on them for food or habitat.
The coral die-off is afflicting reefs in waters bounded by the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Included is the Coral Triangle, an area in the Pacific between Indonesia and the Solomon Islands that supports the greatest volume of marine biodiversity in the world, earning it the nickname the "Amazon rainforest" of the oceans. The Coral Triangle alone represents 5.7 million square kilometers of pelagic territory.

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