If you were wondering what that odd smell is in the air, it’s because 2008 is the International Year of the Reefer. Oh, wait, we read that wrong. The reef — it’s the International Year of the Reef. Ahem. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) says that warming seas and increased hurricanes affected more than half of Caribbean coral reefs in 2005 — a devastation likely to become a regular event. To better understand our coral compatriots, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is sending scuba divers and underwater robots to Bonaire, an island in the Netherlands Antilles, to study previously unexplored deepwater reefs. But we kind of already know what needs to be done, says the head of the IUCN’s global marine program: “If we don’t do something about climate change, the reefs won’t be with us for much longer.” Lest you think that wouldn’t be a big deal, note that reefs are natural storm barriers and support an estimated 25 percent of all marine life.

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