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Reef corals and fish in the shallow water near Menjangan Island, Northwest of Bali, Indonesia
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of Lisa Gardiner

Hope for the World’s Coral Reefs?
News story originally written on December 20, 2002

After many years of damage, scientists report that coral reefs in several parts of the world have started to recover during 2002!

The reefs with improving health are located in areas that are protected from damaging activities, such as too much fishing, pollution, and sand falling on top of the reefs, which will clog the coral animals, preventing them from eating.

Unfortunately, not all reefs have better health. Many reefs around the world continue to suffer. The scientists also report that 27% of the world’s reefs have been lost and another 14% are expected to be destroyed in the next 10 to 20 years. These coral reefs may suffer because of local threats, like too much fishing or pollution in the ocean water, but they are also threatened by global climate change.

Global climate change is the major reason for a coral health problem called bleaching. Bleaching is a process that turns coral white when the algae that live within the coral’s body are released out into the ocean water. A reef that has bleached is not dead but the coral animals become very weak without the algae. More than 400 coral reefs were bleached during the year 2002. Corals will bleach if the seawater is too warm or not salty enough, when there is too much sunlight or too many toxins.


Last modified December 20, 2002 by Lisa Gardiner.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA