As Mass Coral Bleaching Occurs More Frequently, Hopes For Recovery Fade, Study Finds

Mass coral bleaching events are happening far more frequently than in the past, giving some of the world’s most majestic and fragile ecosystems almost no time to recover, according to a new paper published Thursday in the journal Science.

A team of researchers analyzed rates of coral bleaching around the tropics over the past four decades, events that most often occur when seawater becomes too warm for coral to remain healthy. Scientists discovered that in the 1980s, severe coral bleaching events occurred only about once every 25 to 30 years. But, in the six years after 2010, the rate between bleachings plummeted, and mass events now occur about once every six years.

“Before the 1980s, mass bleaching of corals was unheard of, even during strong El Niño conditions, but now repeated bouts of regional-scale bleaching and mass mortality of corals has become the new normal around the world as temperatures continue to rise,” Terry Hughes, the study’s lead author and the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Australia, said in a statement.

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