Caribbean Coral Reefs Mostly Dead
The Caribbean’s coral reefs have collapsed, mostly due to overfishing and climate change, according to a new report released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In the most comprehensive study yet of Caribbean coral reefs, scientists have discovered that the 50 to 60% coral cover present in the 1970s has plummeted to less than 10%.
Much of the decline is caused by a massive die-off of sea urchins in the 1970s—possibly due to disease. Without these reef grazers—the “cows in the field” that keep vegetation in check—the number of algae and grasses have skyrocketed, dominating reefs and pushing corals aside, Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Program said. What’s more, overfishing of grazer species such as parrotfish or surgeonfish is allowing more algae to take over and outcompete the coral, said Ameer Abdulla, IUCN senior advisor on Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Science.