Dive beneath the surface in the lower Florida Keys, and swimmers once found themselves hovering above vibrant, coral communities. However, the past three decades have revealed a devastating loss of reef life around the globe. In the Looe Key Sanctuary Preservation Area alone, living coral cover plunged from 33 percent in 1984 to less than 6 percent 24 years later. But why?
For a long time, scientists have known that such rapid die-offs are a result of coral bleaching, a consequence of rapidly warming oceans. When temperatures rise beyond the limits of the coral – which are living organisms – they expel the symbiotic algae within their very bodies. The loss of the algae turns them bone-white, and can cause vast mortality events.
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