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Earth’s fragile coral reefs, seen from space

Johnny Simon
By Johnny Simon


A recent UN report spelled out the grim state of climate change in exceedingly bleak terms. Without a monumental shift in how people live and work, scientists expect the Earth to already be experiencing dire effects by 2040: Sea-level rise, more ferocious wildfires, as well as the die-off of coral reefs around the world.

Coral reefs have already experienced bouts of bleaching over the past decades. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef  lost around 50% of its coral between 2016 and 2017.

Photos from space underscore the precarious position of these oases of life in the ocean—and what we all have to lose.

The New Caledonian Barrier Reef, seen in 2001.
The Pompey Island Group of the Great Barrier Reef, seen in 2002.
Reefs surrounding the Society Islands of Bora Bora, Tahaa and Raiatea in the South Pacific, seen from the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1999.
Coral reefs in the Red Sea seen from Apollo 7 in 1968.
Coral reefs off the coast of Saudi Arabia in 2008.
A portion of the Great Barrier Reef, seen in 2009.
Coral reefs of the coast of Viti Levu, Fiji.
NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team
Republic of Maldives, which is made up of more than 20 atolls and more than a thousand coral islands.
Aves Island in the Caribbean Sea, surrounded by a coral reef, seen from the International Space Station.
Midway Island, seen from the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1985.
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