Corals are severely bleaching five times as often as in 1980 | Science News


Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.

News in Brief

Corals are severely bleaching five times as often as in 1980

Warming tropical waters are largely responsible, researchers say

2:00pm, January 4, 2018
coral reef

COLORLESS  Bleaching removes the algae that feed corals and give them their color, turning vibrant reefs barren. Reefs are now experiencing severe bleaching much more frequently than four decades ago.

Corals are in hot water.

Severe bleaching events are hitting coral reefs five times as often as in 1980, researchers report in the Jan. 5 Science.

Scientists surveyed 100 coral reef locations in tropical zones around the world, tracking each spot’s fate from 1980 to 2016. At first, only a few of the locations had experienced bleaching. But by 2016, all had been hit by at least one bleaching event, and all but six had suffered a severe event — defined as affecting more than 30 percent of corals in an area.

The median time between pairs of severe bleaching events has also decreased, the researchers found — it’s now just under six years, versus 25 to 30 years in the early 1980s. That’s not enough time for corals to fully bounce back before getting hit again.

Consistently higher tropical water temperatures, the result of climate change, are in part

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content