Australian scientists say Asia’s corals hit by mass die-out

SYDNEY, October 19, 2010 (AFP) – Coral reefs in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean are dying from the worst bleaching effect in more than a decade, Australian marine scientists said Tuesday. The bleaching, triggered by a large pool of warm water which swept into the Indian Ocean in May, has caused corals from Indonesia to the Seychelles to whiten and die, Australia’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies said.

Reefs in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore were also affected by the phenomenon under which sea temperatures rose by several degrees Celsius in Indonesia, researcher Andrew Baird said.

“It is certainly the worst coral die-off we have seen since 1998. It may prove to be the worst such event known to science,” he said.

Baird, a fellow at James Cook University, said the magnitude of the event was so large, and the ocean temperatures in some places raised so much higher than normal, that it was “almost certainly a consequence of global warming”.

He said for six to eight weeks from mid-May the temperatures were high enough to cause bleaching of the corals in Indonesia’s Aceh, the area worst hit by the event.

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