SUBSCRIBEAustralia's Great Barrier Reef is heralded for its biodiversity: The colorful clusters of coral and wisps of islands stretch 1,400 miles, home to white and orange clown fish, the blacktip shark, humpback whales and hundreds of other species.
But those clear blue-green waters are also changing faster than previously thought, according to a new study in the journal Nature , worrying scientists who say the survival of the Great Barrier Reef and other ecosystems like it is crucial for the planet.
At the Great Barrier Reef — considered one of the Earth's largest living structures — about half of the coral died in 2016 and 2017 because of record extreme heat, a result of climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers found.
Loss of coral reef ecosystems should be a major concern to people, even if they live a long way from them, said Nick Graham, a marine ecologist at Lancaster University in England.
In addition to climate change, he blames pollution, including from sunscreen that humans use, agricultural runoff and sewage from resorts for making the waters more toxic.
Keith A. Ellenbogen / APDowns, an Oahu native and the executive director of the environmental lab Haereticus in Virginia, said he supports legislation in Hawaii that would ban sunscreen that contains the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate as well as enforce greater pesticide control.
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- Scope of Great Barrier Reef's Coral Bleaching Alarms ScientistsNBC Southern California
- Here Are Some Alternatives to Reef-Damaging SunscreenNational Geographic
- Coral Reefs are More and More Affected by Global WarmingAdvocator
- 2016 Ocean Heatwave Killed 30 Percent of the Great Barrier ReefSmithsonian
- The Great Barrier Reef Is Dying Due to Global Warming, but All Hope Is Not LostChristian Post