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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Coral Reefs Dying

WASHINGTON -- Marine biologists have been fretting for years about coral reefs, which have been dying around the world. Theories about the cause of the "bleachings" remain controversial, but warm water temperatures appear to play a role.

Now, researchers in Belize have documented the first complete collapse of coral reefs from bleaching in the Caribbean, apparently because of warm water temperatures caused by the 1997-98 El Ni?o weather phenomenon.

"Cores extracted from the Belizean reefs showed that these events were unprecedented over at least the past 3,000 years," wrote Richard Aronson of Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama in the May 4 issue of the journal Nature. "There is growing concern that global climate change is degrading coral reef ecosystems ... [and] our results from Belize appear to justify this concern."