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  Coral reefs 'dying out faster than rainforests'
Updated 18 July 2003, 11.03
An example of healthy coral
Precious coral reefs which are home to loads of plants and sea creatures are being killed off faster than the rainforests.

Scientists looked at 263 reefs in the Caribbean and discovered they had lost 80% of their coral in the past 30 years.

Corals are large colonies of tiny animals which slowly get bigger.

Fact File
Coral reefs
Usually found in tropical waters
Indian Ocean has 60% of Earth's reefs
Pacific Ocean has 25%
Caribbean has 15%
Some are almost 6,000 years old
Grow very slowly:12 meters per 1,000 years
Have almost as many species as tropical forests
Corals produce natural sunscreen which is being developed for human use
Largest natural structures on the planet
Great Barrier Reef can be seen from the moon

Every year, they leave behind a layer of skeleton, which is so tough it almost feels like rock.

That is why some people call coral "living rock".

Human fault

Scientists say the coral has been dying out because of weather conditions like hurricanes and disease.

Pollution and people doing too much fishing have also led to the decline.

But the scientists didn't find any evidence that global warming had added to the problem.

The good news is they found the damage seems to be slowing down, and some sites even appear to be getting better.

Hear story Hear story

More InfoBORDER=0
PicturesPix: Reefs and their creatures
ChatChat about the environment
Club'People take the world for granted'


Past StoriesBORDER=0
Coral reef plans hit by sinking 'ghost' ship
Rare UK coral reefs damaged by fishing
Tuna tagging in California
Porpoises could be wiped out by fishing nets



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