Growth rates among corals on the Great Barrier Reef have slumped to their slowest in at least four centuries and growth is expected to cease within 26 years.
The process of calcification, which gives the reefs their structure and strength, has slowed by 14.2 per cent in less than 20 years, researchers in Australia have discovered.
The slowdown is so abrupt that they fear the natural process of reef-building will stop by 2050 and perhaps as early as 2035, when the Great Barrier Reef will start to fall apart.
Other reefs around the world are feared to be similarly affected, with disastrous implications for fish and other creatures. Global reef cover is already shrinking by 1 per cent annually.
Stress from changes in surface temperatures and an increase in acidity caused by more carbon dioxide being absorbed by the water were cited as the most likely causes.
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