Coral is dying at a faster rate than ever before, according to the latest data from NOAA. Coral reefs, described as the "rainforests of the sea" by oceanographers because of the important role reefs play in ocean ecosystems, are reportedly being damaged by sediment, pollution, and increased water temperatures.
A report by marine biologist Pete Taylor on coral damage in these pages ("Coral reefs in decline," Issue No. 82, May/June 1997) described the loss of coral as a competition between algae and coral. As algae is created by warmer temperatures and chemicals and nutrients in river runoff, corals become choked and eventually die.
At least 50 countries have reported coral bleaching damage over the past two years, according to NOAA. "Coral bleaching is a sign that reefs are under severe stress and may be seriously damaged," NOAA administrator D. James Baker said in a statement.