Indo-Pacific coral reefs disappearing twice as fast as rainforest, study says

Forget the rainforest: the coral reefs of the Indian and Pacific oceans are vanishing twice as quickly, researchers say. The Indo-Pacific region, home to 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs, has lost nearly 600 square miles of reef each year since the late 1960s. In addition, coral cover — a measure of ocean-floor coverage that reflects reef health — has shrunk from a historic average of 50 percent to an average of about 20 percent in 2003. A team from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who published their work in the online journal PLoS ONE, sifted through 6,000 surveys of over 2,600 reefs from the last few decades, finding surprisingly similar trends across the vast region — no matter what local management policies looked like. Could it be … some sort of global phenomenon? “We have already lost half of the world’s reef-building corals,” says team lead John Bruno. “We can do a far better job of developing technologies and implementing smart policies that will offset climate change.”

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.