Worst Reef die-off in 11,000 years

Two new studies by scientists at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University suggest that coral reefs may be in worse shape than previously thought.

The first, appearing in the journal Geology indicates that the current large scale coral die-offs are now occurring more frequently than at any time in the last 11,000 years.

The second, published in Current Biology, suggests that the loss of a single “keystone” species can trigger a rapid shift in the health of a reef.

The first study, led by Associate Professor John Pandolfi of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland, examined fossilized reefs of the Huon Peninsula in Papua New Guinea and determined that past reef die-offs occurred about every 1500 years due to some catastrophic event — a rate that is exceeded by the current decline in coral reefs;