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The impact of global warming on coral reefs
Coral reefs are amongst the most productive ecosystems on the planet and home to a stunning diversity of animal life, yet they are also extremely sensitive to changes in sea temperature. Corals is built by tiny animals called polyps. These receive 90% of their nutrients from a symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic algae that live within them. There are many major threats to these living ecosystems but most alarming is the increasing number of coral bleaching events. Bleaching occurs when the sensitive symbiotic algae are killed, starving the reef of its food and colour. Their destruction is likely the result of the effects of global warming: rising sea temperatures, increased water salinity and ocean acidification. In April 1998, an El Nino event is thought to have caused mass devastation to the reefs surrounding the Maldive Islands. With just a one degree rise in temperature, the coral reefs turned white, exposing their inner skeletons once the outer polyps had died. First broadcast in the series 'State of the Planet' in 2000.
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