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Threat Of Permanent Coral Reef Extinction Brings Change

Extraordinary, vibrant coral reefs worldwide are bleaching away into pale graveyards as ocean water temperatures rise.

Nearly half of the world's colorful underwater ecosystems have been lost in the last 30 years, as heat waves -- prompted by human pollution -- have warmed the waters, Stuff New Zealand reported.

As climates rise and waters warm up, it is suspected that over 90 percent of the world's coral reefs will have died by 2050, with unlikelihood of reversal.

It's said that one in four marine animals reside in a coral reef, and the loss of these important structures would impact not just the underwater world, but also hurt human life.

Not only do coral reefs produce some of the oxygen we breathe, but they financially support many coastal cities and affect half a billion people around the world.

Scuba diving and snorkeling to see the gorgeous reefs provides billions of dollars in revenue to islands and beach cities.

But coral reefs are more than just a pretty view; they are home to some life-changing medicines, The Wrap explains.

For example, coral reefs are home to a specific kind of sponge that is one of the leading cures for one type of cancer, explains Larissa Rhodes, filmmaker and producer of the new Netflix documentary, "Chasing Coral."

The documentary goes into detail on the economic and medicinal impact coral reefs have on humans. This documentary is being filmed by Jeff Orlowski and is a follow-up to the 2012 documentary, "Chasing Ice."

These reefs are incredibly sensitive to temperature change, as just one to two degrees in temperature increase can expel the algae on coral reefs, leaving a naked gray reef in place where once a neon home for thousands of species used to be, Stuff New Zealand explains.

And while bleached coral can recover as temperatures return to normal, it is noticed that these heat waves are becoming more and more popular.

Scientists now fear that the damage might be permanent as waters continue to heat up.

Responses have come from the coastal communities affected.

National Geographic reports that different areas are implementing new 3-D printed reefs that mimic the texture and size of a coral reef, but are more resistant to temperature change. Research will continue to see how these reefs hold, and how sea creatures will react.

Meanwhile, some environmentalist leaders have called on the world to implement the Paris Agreement, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emission by holding countries accountable for their pollution, the Christian Science monitor explains.

Even Democratic Sen. Will Espero of Hawaii proposed a bill banning the sale of chemical sunscreens that have been proved to negatively impact the reefs, Fox News reports.

Sources: Stuff, Fox News,The Wrap,National Geographic, The Christian Science Monitor / Photo credit: Greenpeace via CBS News

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