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Remote coral reefs aren't healthier, new study shows

"Our work illustrates the truly far-reaching effects of global warming," said researcher John Bruno.

By
Brooks Hays
A bird's-eye view of an isolated portion of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, where corals have been experiencing prolonged bleaching. Photo by NASA
A bird's-eye view of an isolated portion of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, where corals have been experiencing prolonged bleaching. Photo by NASA | License Photo

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., July 25 (UPI) -- New research proves more remote coral reefs aren't any healthier than those situated in coastal regions near large human populations.

"We often mythologize isolated coral reefs as pristine and safe from harm," lead researcher John Bruno, a professor of marine biology at the University of North Carolina, said in a news release. "In fact, coral loss on some of our isolated reefs is just as dramatic as coral decline on reefs adjacent to more densely populated islands."

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The new study, published this week in the journal Scientific Reports, analyzed data on the health of 1,708 reefs from all over the globe. Bruno and his colleagues measured isolation by totaling the number of people living within 30 miles of each reef. The results suggest local human activities have a limited impact on coral reef health.

"Widespread arguments that coral reef degradation is mostly caused by local factors are unsupported," said study co-author Abel Valdivia. "We found the problem is better explained by global impacts such as climate change."

Over the last year, Australia's Great Barrier Reef has suffered a record-setting bleaching event. The coral hardest hit have been those located in central and northern portions of the Great Barrier Reef -- some of the most remote and well-protected in the world.

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"Our work illustrates the truly far-reaching effects of global warming and the immediate need for drastic and sustained cuts in carbon emissions to help restore the health of coral reefs," Bruno concluded.

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