New York: Extreme sea waves kill coral reefs much faster than previously thought, according to a new study published Friday.
Scientists were aware that warming seawater caused by global warming could cause severe damage to coral reefs through bleaching, as high temperatures kill colored algae, which cover and feed coral reefs.
Frequent bleaching events, such as those that struck the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in 2016 and 2017, could eventually eliminate coral in a process that takes months or years. If sea temperatures drop, bleached coral reefs can regenerate.
However, the new study found that severe sea waves could cause the coral structure to deteriorate, leading to the death of these organisms within days or weeks.
“The intensity of these heat waves goes beyond bleaching and becomes a point where the coral itself dies,” said Tracy Unsworth, who co-authored the study from the University of New South Wales.