Massive Coral Die-Off Reported In Indonesia
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
We have one more piece of hard scientific evidence, this morning, indicating climate change.
We go to the northwestern coast of Sumatra in Indonesia, where scientists are reporting that the coral is dying off in one corner of the Pacific. Here's one more consequence, they say, of warming oceans.
NPR's Dan Charles has more.
DAN CHARLES: This past spring and early summer, the Andaman Sea, off the coast of Sumatra, was three, five, even seven degrees warmer than normal. That can be dangerous to coral, so scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society went out to the reefs to take a look. At that time, about 60 percent of the coral had turned white - it was under extreme stress but still alive.
Caleb McClennen from WCS says they just went out to take a look again.
Dr. CALEB MCCLENNEN (Director, Marine Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society): The shocking situation, now, is that about 80 percent of those that were bleached have now died.
CHARLES: That's just in the area McClennen's colleagues were able to survey. They're asking other scientists to check on coral in other areas of the Andaman Sea.
Similar mass bleaching events have been observed this year in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, and other parts of Indonesia.
A partial die-off doesn't necessarily destroy a reef; the surviving coral can colonize dead parts of a reef and restore it. But McClennen says people and governments also play a big role. Plant-eating fish keep algae from taking over dead reefs so restrictions on fishing can help.
But in the long term, McClennan says, coral reefs need people to stop warming up Earth's climate.
Dan Charles, NPR News.
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