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Researchers Say Coral Reefs are Dying

Bleached Coral Reef. Photo Credit: OSU

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Researchers at Oregon State University say coral reefs around the world are dying, and they say sewage and fertilizers that end up in the water are to blame.

A three-year OSU study shows that with more nitrogen and phosphorus in the water, coral reefs are more likely to get diseases.

Researchers say 80 percent of the coral reefs in the Caribbean have already disappeared.

“Coral reefs provide over $400 billion in different types of items to the human population. And those are both from tourism, fishing, and also these areas are very bio-diverse,” said Rebecca Vega-Thurber, OSU Professor.

Vega-Thurber says coral reefs provide an important food source in many areas, such as in Indonesia, where communities rely on fish as a main protein source.

“Eighty percent of fish in these areas live at some point in their lives on a coral reef. So if you remove the corals, you no longer are going to have the fish and you’ll no longer have the fishing.”

Researchers say if the reefs are still alive, they recover quickly on their own if pollution levels are reduced.

“This is good news,” she said. “Because it’s reversible. For the coral reefs that are still alive that is.”

Vega-Thurber says she hopes this study will be an incentive for communities living near coral reefs to take action by using less fertilizers in their yards. She also hopes the study will encourage folks to fight for better sewage treatment.

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