Climate change's impact on Indian Ocean reefs laid bare by haunting pictures

Coral bleaching driven by climate change has been recorded as far west as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, devastating reefs in the region. It comes days after Australian scientists announced that 35% of corals in the northern and central sections of the iconic Great Barrier Reef were dead as a result of bleaching. The Ocean Agency described the extent of bleaching in the Maldives as "truly haunting".

"It's rare to see reefs bleach quite so spectacularly," it said in an e-mail statement. "These were healthy reefs in crystal clear water at the height of an intense bleaching event. The flesh of the corals had turned clear and we were seeing the skeletons of the animals glowing white for as far as the eye could see. It was a beautiful, yet deeply disturbing site."

Coral reefs in the Maldives are being devastated by mass bleaching driven by ocean warmingXL Catlin Seaview Survey
Bleaching occurs when stressed corals expel algae called zooxanthellaeXL Catlin Seaview Survey
Scientists say coral bleaching is a visible indicator of climate change – over 90% of global warming heat is absorbed by the world's oceansXL Catlin Seaview Survey
Reefs represent less than 0.1% of the world's ocean floor but support one-fourth of all marine speciesXL Catlin Seaview Survey
Corals can recover from bleaching, but if the algae loss is prolonged they eventually dieXL Catlin Seaview Survey
The current global coral bleaching event – the third since 1998 – is the longest in recorded historyXL Catlin Seaview Survey
Australian scientists say vast sections of the Great Barrier Reef – the world's largest coral reef system – are dying due to bleachingXL Catlin Seaview Survey
The current global bleaching event began in the northern Pacific in 2014XL Catlin Seaview Survey
Scientists have urged concrete action against climate change to preserve the world's reefsXL Catlin Seaview Survey
The Maldives is an island country built atop 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean – its economy relies heavily on reef tourismXL Catlin Seaview Survey

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