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Coral Bleaching Found for First Time in Hawaiian Reefs

October 06, 2002|From Associated Press

HONOLULU — Scientists have found the first evidence of coral bleaching in the Hawaiian Islands, providing a worrisome sign of more potential environmental damage from global warming.

Coral bleaching happens when the algae that populate and build the coral die off.

The bleaching was discovered around the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, 10 mostly uninhabited islets and atolls that extend 1,200 miles northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands. The reefs are some of the most pristine in the world.

Scientists said that the reefs probably will recover in a few weeks but that the condition should be watched closely.

"It's important not to overreact to the evidence of coral bleaching we've observed during this trip," said Greta Aeby, a coral biologist with the state. "In severe cases, coral bleaching can cause mortality, but most mildly bleached colonies will recover in a few weeks."

Coral bleaching has increased worldwide over the last several decades, particularly in Florida.

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