U.S. marine scientists have discovered coral reefs in the central and western Pacific Ocean are dying faster than previously thought.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers said they have determined nearly 600 square miles of reef have disappeared annually since the late 1960s — twice the rate of rain forest loss.
The study found the reefs are disappearing at a rate of 1 percent per year in a decline that began decades earlier than expected.
Historically, coral cover — a measure of reef health — hovered around 50 percent. Today, only about 2 percent of reefs in the Indo-Pacific have coral cover close to the historical baseline, the scientists said.
“We have already lost half of the world’s reef-building corals,” said Associate Professor John Bruno, lead study author. He said the research provides the first regional-scale and long-term analysis of coral loss in the Indo-Pacific, which contains 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs.
The results appear in the Aug. 8 issue of the online journal PLoS One.
Source: Science Daily