Japan: Half of its biggest coral reef wiped out by hot summer

TOMOYUKI YAMAMOTO Asahi Shimbun 16 Dec 16;

NAHA--More than half of Japan’s largest coral reef is now dead because of global warming.

Coral bleaching has also affected 97 percent of the coral on the seabed of the area known as Sekiseishoko, researchers from the Environment Ministry have also revealed.

Sekiseishoko, an area of the sea between Ishigakijima and Iriomotejima islands, is a popular diving spot.

Coral bleaching occurs when coral weakens and turns white due to high water temperatures or other reasons. Experts have been warning that the phenomenon may occur more frequently as global warming progresses.

The severe bleaching was “caused by the persistent extraordinarily high seawater temperature--as high as 30 degrees or warmer-- between June and September 2016,” according to a report by the Naha Nature Conservation Office of the Environment Ministry.

The office studied the condition of coral at 35 points in the Sekiseishoko area in September and October. In the first survey conducted in July and August, they found 5.4 percent of coral had died, but the percentage had significantly risen to 56.7 percent in the latest inspection.

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