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Caribbean Coral Reef Decline
Corals are disappearing from reefs across the entire Caribbean basin, U.K. scientists report.
There are plenty of small-scale studies of individual Caribbean reefs, but the extent of the problem has not been quantified on a Caribbean-wide scale until now, according to Toby A. Gardner and colleagues in a report published online at Science Express on 17 July 2003. The researchers compiled data from studies covering 263 separate sites across the Caribbean, and found that the average hard coral cover on Caribbean reefs has dropped from 50 percent to 10 percent in the last three decades.
Although the rate of coral loss has slowed in recent decades, compared to the 1980s, significant declines persist. The authors say there is no convincing evidence yet that global stressors such as climate warming are responsible. More likely, local factors, both natural (disease, storms) and human-related (over-fishing, habitat destruction) are to blame.
18 July 2003