"SOUTH ARI ATOLL, Maldives — There were startling colors here just a year ago, a dazzling array of life beneath the waves. Now this Maldivian reef is dead, killed by the stress of rising ocean temperatures. What's left is a haunting expanse of gray, a scene repeated in reefs across the globe in what has fast become a full-blown ecological catastrophe.
The world has lost roughly half its coral reefs in the last 30 years. Scientists are now scrambling to ensure that at least a fraction of these unique ecosystems survives beyond the next three decades. The health of the planet depends on it: Coral reefs support a quarter of all marine species, as well as half a billion people around the world.
'This isn't something that's going to happen 100 years from now. We're losing them right now,' said marine biologist Julia Baum of Canada's University of Victoria. 'We're losing them really quickly, much more quickly than I think any of us ever could have imagined.'"