A year ago I dove in the Maldives with marine biologist Kate Wilson, who has lived and worked there for the past four years. We boated to the middle of a lagoon in one of the chain’s thousand atolls for an up-close look at the health of what was once a Mecca for coral lovers.
A pair of significant warmings in the past decade have heated the ocean by four to six degrees and killed off much of the previously vibrant coral reef. As we dove we signaled to each other ‘thumbs down’ as we floated over reefs blanched the color of cement, the tips of the coral broken off exposing bare rock on the ocean floor.
Unfortunately what we witnessed that day in the Maldives is being repeated around the globe—coral reefs are dying, and fast.
After 250 millions years as a highly successful life form, disruptions in the biological and communication systems of coral reefs—many of them manmade—are causing similar coral bleaching and collapse of reef ecosystems around the world.
Warming sea temperatures are one reason, but not the only cause.
On top of the bleaching caused by warming sea temps, here’s what’s killing off the planet’s coral reefs:
Photo: David Loh/Reuters