The Noah's Ark for Plants Beneath the English Countryside

The Millennium Seed Bank holds some 40,000 plant species from around the world. Ben Stansall / AFP
The Millennium Seed Bank holds some 40,000 plant species from around the world. Ben Stansall / AFP
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The Noah's Ark for Plants Beneath the English Countryside

The Millennium Seed Bank holds some 40,000 plant species from around the world. Ben Stansall / AFP
The Millennium Seed Bank holds some 40,000 plant species from around the world. Ben Stansall / AFP

Inside bomb-proof frozen vaults underneath the English countryside hides a treasure trove of 40,000 species of wild plant seeds from around the world, many of which are in danger of disappearing.

The world's largest seed bank, located in the sleepy countryside south of London, is in a race against time because two out of five plant species are threatened with extinction, according to scientists.

Britain's David Attenborough, a leading environmental figure of international renown, has called the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) "perhaps the most significant conservation initiative ever".

"The purpose is conservation of wild species through seeds, against those species becoming extinct, in the long run," explained John Dickie, the project's senior research leader.

The 70-year-old has been involved with the MSB since its inception in the late 1990s and the opening of its current home in 2000 to celebrate the millennium.

A total of 2.5 billion seeds are stored at the MSB in Wakehurst, 35 miles (56 kilometers) outside London, and at a branch of the capital's Kew Gardens botanical gardens.

They come in all shapes, colors and sizes, and belong to 40,020 different species originating from 190 countries.

Nearly 20 percent of the world's flora is preserved at Wakehurst, with priority given to plants that are threatened, particularly by climate change, and endemic plants that can only be found in one geographical area.

Plants that have a societal function, such as for medical or economic use, also have their place.

'Not rocket science'

"Plant species are endangered for a number of reasons but mainly through land use change, and increasingly through climate change," said Dickie.

"Some plants will adapt. Others are not adaptable. At least they are here rather than not existing anymore," he added.

Wakehurst receives new seeds from all over the world every week and then the process of saving them begins.

That process is "based on the technology that has already been in use for crop species", said Dickie.

"It's not rocket science. Dry it, freeze it. It's just chemistry," he added, explaining that, once frozen, the seeds can be stored for decades, probably centuries.

Dickie's team of around 20 researchers and various volunteers works in public view in their glass-fronted laboratory.

Lucy Taylor is working on Albizia Polyphylla seeds that have arrived from Madagascar.

"Madagascar is a very interesting place for us. As it was disconnected from Africa, there's a unique flora. And there's also a lot of pressure on land," she said.

One of her jobs is to separate the empty seeds from the rest.

"Many of them can be empty or infested with bugs or some kind of disease, so it's important for us to clean them as much as we can," explained Taylor.

"We want to have the best quality collection possible but also space in our bank vault is limited."

The seeds are X-rayed for diseases, and each is given its own identity card, with its name, country of origin and date of arrival at the MSB.

The seeds are then stored in glass jars before scientists -- kitted up like Arctic explorers -- take them to the minus 20 degree Celsius (minus four-degree Fahrenheit) underground vaults, built to withstand floods, bombings and radiation.

The largest collection of seeds is from the orchid family.

But there are also rare plants, such as the world's smallest water lily and the Deschampsia Antarctica, also known as Antarctic hair grass, one of two flowering plants native to the frozen continent.

The MSB, which receives public funding and donations, has partnerships with 90 countries.

Some, such as Indonesia, refuse to share their seeds with the MSB, but keep them on their territory and take responsibility for their conservation.



Report: Coral Bleaching Afflicts Most of Australia's Great Barrier Reef

This underwater photo taken on April 5, 2024, shows bleached and dead coral around Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, located 270 kilometres north of the city of Cairns. (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP)
This underwater photo taken on April 5, 2024, shows bleached and dead coral around Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, located 270 kilometres north of the city of Cairns. (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP)
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Report: Coral Bleaching Afflicts Most of Australia's Great Barrier Reef

This underwater photo taken on April 5, 2024, shows bleached and dead coral around Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, located 270 kilometres north of the city of Cairns. (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP)
This underwater photo taken on April 5, 2024, shows bleached and dead coral around Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, located 270 kilometres north of the city of Cairns. (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP)

Some three-quarters of Australia's famed Great Barrier Reef is suffering from coral bleaching, authorities said in a report on Wednesday, days after climate scientists warned the condition was blighting such reefs worldwide.
At least 54 countries and regions have experienced mass bleaching of their reefs since February 2023 as climate change warms the ocean's surface waters, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has said.
"The Great Barrier Reef is an incredible ecosystem, and while it has shown its resilience time and time again, this summer has been particularly challenging," said Roger Beeden, of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
"Climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef, and coral reefs globally," added Beeden, the chief scientist of the Authority, which manages the area.
Coral bleaching was observed on 73% of the surveyed reefs in the park, the Authority said in its report, according to Reuters.
Bleaching is triggered by changes in water temperatures that cause corals to expel the colorful algae living in their tissues. But the corals cannot survive without the algae, which deliver nutrients to them.
On Monday, the world's top coral reef monitoring body, Coral Reef Watch, which is run by the NOAA, declared the fourth global bleaching event in the last three decades.


EU Pledges 3.5 Bln Euros to Protect the Ocean

In this Monday, May 25, 2020 photo, medical staff in a dinghy leaves from the Aegean Sea island of Milos to Sikinos island, Greece. (AP)
In this Monday, May 25, 2020 photo, medical staff in a dinghy leaves from the Aegean Sea island of Milos to Sikinos island, Greece. (AP)
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EU Pledges 3.5 Bln Euros to Protect the Ocean

In this Monday, May 25, 2020 photo, medical staff in a dinghy leaves from the Aegean Sea island of Milos to Sikinos island, Greece. (AP)
In this Monday, May 25, 2020 photo, medical staff in a dinghy leaves from the Aegean Sea island of Milos to Sikinos island, Greece. (AP)

The European Union will spend 3.5 billion euros ($3.71 billion) to protect the ocean and promote sustainability through a series of initiatives this year, the EU's top environment official said on Tuesday.

The EU's 40 commitments, announced during the annual "Our Ocean" conference held in Athens this week, range from fighting marine pollution to supporting sustainable fisheries and investments in the so-called blue economy - sustainable use of marine and freshwater resources for economic activity.

"The ocean is part of who we are, and it is our shared responsibility," said EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius.

The European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service said last month that ocean temperatures hit a record high in February, according to data that goes back to 1979. Overfishing and plastic pollution are also major threats to oceans.

The biggest part of the EU funds will be used to support 14 investments and one reform in sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Portugal and Spain. Other EU initiatives are directed to helping African countries develop their blue economy.

In total, more than 400 new commitments amounting to $10 billion will be announced during the conference, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

Greece will spend 780 million euros on 21 commitments which include a ban on bottom trawling in all of the country's marine protected areas, he added.

The country also pledged to create two more marine parks, one in the Aegean Sea for the protection of seabirds and one in the Ionian Sea for the protection of sea mammals, which will cover more than 4,000 square kilometers of areas protected under the EU's Natura 2000 network of sites.

"Mitigation and adaptation are not enough. We must also focus on protection and restoration to insulate land and seas from harmful human activity and to give space to nature to heal," said Mitsotakis.

The marine park in the Aegean Sea has irritated neighboring Türkiye, which said last week that it was not willing to accept a possible "fait accompli on geographical features whose status is disputed". In response, Greece accused Türkiye of "politicizing a purely environmental issue".

Environmental groups have also urged Greece to halt its gas exploration plans in the Ionian Sea.

The "Our Ocean" conference has mobilized more than 2,160 commitments worth approximately $130 billion since its launch in 2014.


King Salman Science Oasis Marks World Quantum Day

The King Salman Science Oasis works with creative mechanisms in learning and discovery.
The King Salman Science Oasis works with creative mechanisms in learning and discovery.
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King Salman Science Oasis Marks World Quantum Day

The King Salman Science Oasis works with creative mechanisms in learning and discovery.
The King Salman Science Oasis works with creative mechanisms in learning and discovery.

The King Salman Science Oasis will participate in celebrating World Quantum Day.

The event is organized by the Saudi Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR), affiliated with the World Economic Forum.
The celebration of the oasis comes within its objectives to spread applied sciences and support innovation. This event aligns with the Kingdom's Vision 2030, emphasizing distinguished education for future generations, promoting scientific culture, and environmental awareness, SPA reported.

The King Salman Science Oasis works with creative mechanisms in learning and discovery, which aligns with the vision in applied sciences, modern technology, and continuous education to develop a conscious and forward-looking society.


Arab Group Concerned with International Environmental Agreements Holds Meeting in Cairo

A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)
A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)
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Arab Group Concerned with International Environmental Agreements Holds Meeting in Cairo

A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)
A general view shows Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt July 13, 2020. (Reuters)

The 22nd meeting of the Arab Group concerned with International Environmental Agreements to Combat Desertification and Biodiversity began at the headquarters of the Arab League's Secretariat General.

It is taking place under the chairmanship of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Representatives of several Arab countries have participated as well.
The Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture for Agriculture for International Affairs and Climate, Abdu Al-Sharif, represented the Kingdom at the meeting, SPA reported.
The Director of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Meteorology at the Arab League, Dr. Mahmoud Fathallah, illustrated that the meeting would discuss several items.


Tanomah Waterfalls Draw Nature Enthusiasts

Photo by SPA
Photo by SPA
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Tanomah Waterfalls Draw Nature Enthusiasts

Photo by SPA
Photo by SPA

Following heavy rainfalls, Tanomah Governorate's cascading waterfalls have become a magnet for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts.
Captivated by the breathtaking beauty of the cloudy skies painted with a mesmerizing rainbow framing the cascading waters, visitors have flocked to capture the scene, SPA reported.
Photographers captured on film the dynamic flow of the waterfalls at various locations, particularly in the village of Al-Dahna and the Mana'a Mountains. The resulting panoramic images showcase the beauty, purity, and freshness of the water.
Hikers, meanwhile, have eagerly explored the valley peripheries, and witnessed the torrents cascading down from the mountaintops.
Adding to the visual splendor are the verdant landscape, flourishing forests and terraced farms draped in a vibrant green.
The recent downpours have caused the valley dams to overflow, further enriching the scene. Breathtaking vistas, coupled with the fragrance of aromatic plants like jasmine, mint, basil, rosemary, and wormwood that blanket the fields, mountains, and valleys, created an unforgettable experience for visitors.


Heavy Storms Soak Gulf as Oman Toll Rises to 18

Cars are parked at a flooded street during a rain storm in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 16, 2024. (Reuters)
Cars are parked at a flooded street during a rain storm in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 16, 2024. (Reuters)
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Heavy Storms Soak Gulf as Oman Toll Rises to 18

Cars are parked at a flooded street during a rain storm in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 16, 2024. (Reuters)
Cars are parked at a flooded street during a rain storm in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 16, 2024. (Reuters)

Torrential rains and high winds lashed parts of the Gulf on Tuesday as the death toll from storms in Oman rose to 18, many of them children.

Flights were cancelled in Dubai, the region's financial hub, while schools were shut in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.  

Flooding hit many areas of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, and cut off major roads, snarling traffic and leaving cars stranded.  

Dubai's skies, usually electric blue and cloudless, darkened to night-like conditions in mid-afternoon as a second storm front blew in.  

The storms were expected to continue on Wednesday, UAE's National Center of Meteorology said.  

Some inland areas of the desert country recorded more than 80 millimeters (3.2 inches) of rain, approaching the annual average of about 100 mm.  

The weather board "urged residents to take all the precautions... and to stay away from areas of flooding and water accumulation" in a post on X, formerly Twitter.  

A total of 17 inbound and outbound flights were cancelled during the morning and three were diverted, Dubai Airports said in a statement.  

Bahrain was also hit by heavy rain and flooding after being pummeled by thunder and lightning overnight.  

The storms descended on the UAE, Bahrain and areas of Qatar after passing over Oman, where they caused deadly floods and left dozens stranded.  

A child's body was recovered on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 18 with two people missing, emergency authorities told the official Oman News Agency.  

Nine schoolchildren and three adults died when their vehicles were swept away in flash floods, the news agency reported on Sunday.


Aid Brings a Gaza Bakery Back to Life

 A Palestinian worker arranges freshly baked flatbread at a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
A Palestinian worker arranges freshly baked flatbread at a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Aid Brings a Gaza Bakery Back to Life

 A Palestinian worker arranges freshly baked flatbread at a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
A Palestinian worker arranges freshly baked flatbread at a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

A bakery in Gaza City has started operating for the first time in six months with aid from the World Food Program (WFP), providing desperately needed food in a part of the territory where a UN-backed report has warned of imminent famine.

Abdelrahman al-Jadba, clutching a bag of freshly baked loaves, said he felt a sense of relief that he'd be able to feed his children, describing how he had been forced to give them bread made from flour mixed with sand.

"We pray to God that this continues," he said.

Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip has turned much of the territory into a wasteland with an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe since October, when the armed group Hamas ignited war by storming southern Israel.

Israel has faced increased international pressure to let more aid into the Gaza Strip since it targeted an aid convoy on April 1, killing international relief workers.

The WFP said it has been using a new coordinated route to get aid to north Gaza, where it had delivered more than 1,300 metric tons of food parcels and wheat flour through nine convoys.

"On Saturday, WFP successfully delivered fuel enough for 4-5 days and wheat flour to a bakery in Gaza City to produce 14,000 bread parcels daily, the first delivery since the start of the war," a WFP spokesperson said.

"Deliveries will need to be repeated regularly, the plan is to reach an additional three bakeries in Gaza City next."

Israel, which denies hindering humanitarian relief to Gaza, has said that aid is moving into Gaza more quickly. But the amount is disputed and the United Nations says it is still much less than the bare minimum to meet humanitarian needs.

Bakery worker Motaz Ajour said his bakery had been out of action for 170 days until receiving WFP aid.

"A huge number of people are outside waiting in line and we hope to God that there will be other bakeries that will help us in north of Gaza," he said.

Aid agencies have complained that Israel is not ensuring enough access for food, medicine and other needed humanitarian supplies, and the European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell accused Israel in March of using starvation as a weapon of war.

Israel has blamed delays on aid getting into Gaza on the United Nations, which it has said is inefficient. It said convoys started going into northern Gaza from Thursday using a new crossing point it set up. It was not clear if the WFP convoys were using that route.

According to the union of bakery owners in Gaza, there were 140 bakeries operating in Gaza before the war, many of which had been bombed and destroyed. All bakeries in northern Gaza had stopped functioning.

Al-Jadba said the bag of bread he had bought cost 5 shekels ($1.35). Ten days ago, it would have cost him 20 times that amount, he said.

"Our feelings after bread became available: it brought some sense of relief to be able to feed these children, fill the hunger and be able to move on to the next day and maybe, God willing, bring more," he said.


Greece to Spend 780 Mln Euros to Protect Marine Biodiversity, Says PM

Plastic waste is pictured at the bottom of the sea, off the island of Andros, Greece, July 20, 2019. (Reuters)
Plastic waste is pictured at the bottom of the sea, off the island of Andros, Greece, July 20, 2019. (Reuters)
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Greece to Spend 780 Mln Euros to Protect Marine Biodiversity, Says PM

Plastic waste is pictured at the bottom of the sea, off the island of Andros, Greece, July 20, 2019. (Reuters)
Plastic waste is pictured at the bottom of the sea, off the island of Andros, Greece, July 20, 2019. (Reuters)

Greece is pushing ahead with 21 initiatives worth 780 million euros ($830.9 million) to protect marine biodiversity and tackle coastal pollution, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday ahead of an international conference.

Greece, which includes thousands of islands and which has the longest Mediterranean coastline of any littoral state, said last week it plans to create two marine parks, one in the Ionian Sea and one in the Aegean Sea, as part of the initiatives.

"Quietly but methodically, Greece is playing a leading role in the defense against dramatic climate changes, which are proven to affect every region and every activity," Mitsotakis said in an article published in Kathimerini newspaper.

Greece plans to present its national strategy on marine biodiversity protection at the "Our Ocean" conference, which Athens will host this year and which will be attended by about 120 countries.

More than 400 new commitments amounting to $10 billion will be announced during the conference, said a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service said last month that ocean temperatures hit a record high in February, in a dataset that goes back to 1979. Overfishing and plastic pollution are also major threats to oceans.

Plastics entering the world's oceans could nearly triple by 2040 if no further action is taken, research has shown.

Greece wants to reduce plastic litter in the water by 50% and microplastics by 30% by 2030, the government official said.

The Greek marine parks, whose boundaries will be defined after scientific research by early 2025, will cover 32% of Greece's waters, Mitsotakis said. Greece has legislated the expansion of marine protected areas to 30% of its territorial waters by 2030.

The plan for a marine park in the Aegean Sea has irritated neighboring Türkiye, which said last week that it was not willing to accept a possible "fait accompli on geographical features whose status is disputed". In response, Greece accused Türkiye of "politicizing a purely environmental issue".

NATO allies Greece and Türkiye have long been at odds over a range of issues including maritime boundaries and claims over their continental shelves in the Mediterranean.

Mitsotakis said other initiatives underway include campaigns to curb plastic pollution, constructing charging stations at 12 ports for electric vessels and setting up a monitoring system for protected marine areas because fishing practices that damage the seabed will be banned. Greece wants to ban bottom trawling in all marine protected areas by 2030, the official said.


Russian Ballet Shows in South Korea Cancelled for a Second Time

Svetlana Zakharova as Princess Aurora with The Bolshoi Ballet. (AFP/Getty Images)
Svetlana Zakharova as Princess Aurora with The Bolshoi Ballet. (AFP/Getty Images)
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Russian Ballet Shows in South Korea Cancelled for a Second Time

Svetlana Zakharova as Princess Aurora with The Bolshoi Ballet. (AFP/Getty Images)
Svetlana Zakharova as Princess Aurora with The Bolshoi Ballet. (AFP/Getty Images)

A ballet show in South Korea featuring principal dancers from Russia's Bolshoi Ballet was cancelled a day before opening night, the organizer said on Monday, amid tensions between Seoul and Moscow over Ukraine and North Korea.

The last-minute cancellation came after Seoul performances of a ballet starring Svetlana Zakharova, a Ukrainian-born Russian prima ballerina and a vocal supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, were called off in March.

The Russian embassy in South Korea expressed "deep regret" over the latest cancellation.

"We can't help but notice that South Korea is now showing a certain tendency in its approach to cooperation with Russia in the cultural field as well," the embassy said on its social media account.

"We will have no choice but to consider this."

South Korea has joined Western economic sanctions on Russia, suspended transactions with Russian institutions, and regulated the exports of some strategic items, including electronics and semiconductors, in response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Seoul and Moscow have also clashed over Seoul's decision to impose sanctions against Russian individuals and entities which it said were carrying military cargo to North Korea or were linked to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

The performances, due to take place from Tuesday to Thursday, initially featured 12 principal performers from the Bolshoi Ballet at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Seoul.

The program was then modified to reduce the number of Russian performers with changed content.

However, the show's organizer on Monday announced the cancellation on social media, saying the alterations to the show's cast and program were not accepted by the concert hall.


The World’s Coral Reefs Are Bleaching. What Does That Mean?

This July 26, 2023 image provided by phade® by WinCup, Inc., shows a "Coral Fort," made of biodegradable drinking straws that researchers are using to prevent laboratory-grown coral from becoming really expensive fish food, off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Chris Gug/phade® by WinCup, Inc. via AP)
This July 26, 2023 image provided by phade® by WinCup, Inc., shows a "Coral Fort," made of biodegradable drinking straws that researchers are using to prevent laboratory-grown coral from becoming really expensive fish food, off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Chris Gug/phade® by WinCup, Inc. via AP)
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The World’s Coral Reefs Are Bleaching. What Does That Mean?

This July 26, 2023 image provided by phade® by WinCup, Inc., shows a "Coral Fort," made of biodegradable drinking straws that researchers are using to prevent laboratory-grown coral from becoming really expensive fish food, off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Chris Gug/phade® by WinCup, Inc. via AP)
This July 26, 2023 image provided by phade® by WinCup, Inc., shows a "Coral Fort," made of biodegradable drinking straws that researchers are using to prevent laboratory-grown coral from becoming really expensive fish food, off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Chris Gug/phade® by WinCup, Inc. via AP)

Huge stretches of coral reef around the world are turning a ghostly white this year amid record warm ocean temperatures.

On Monday, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed the world's fourth mass global bleaching event is underway - with serious consequences for marine life and for the people and economies that rely on reefs.

Here's how warming affects coral reefs and what the future might hold for these fragile underwater ecosystems.

WHAT ARE CORALS?

Corals are invertebrates that live in colonies. Their calcium carbonate secretions form hard and protective scaffolding that serves as a home to many colorful species of single-celled algae.

The two organisms have evolved over millennia to work together, with corals providing shelter to algae, while the algae remove coral waste compounds and deliver energy and oxygen back to their hosts.

WHY DO CORALS MATTER?

Coral reefs cover less than one percent of the ocean floor, but have out-sized benefits for marine ecosystems and economies.

A quarter of marine life will depend on reefs for shelter, finding food or spawning at some point in their lives and coastal fisheries would struggle without corals.

Every year, reefs provide about $2.7 trillion in goods and services, from tourism to coastal protection, according to a 2020 estimate by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. About $36 billion is generated by snorkeling and scuba diving tourists alone.

Coral reefs also help coastal communities by forming a protective barrier against storm surges and large waves. This helps to avoid property damage for more than 5 million people worldwide, a 2022 study in the journal Marine Policy found.

WHAT IS CORAL BLEACHING?

When water temperatures rise, jewel-toned corals get stressed. They cope by expelling their algae — causing them to turn bone white.

Most corals live in shallow waters, where climate-driven warming is most pronounced.

Whether a coral becomes heat-stressed depends on how long the high temperatures last, and how much warmer they are than usual.

Scientists have found that corals generally begin to bleach when surrounding waters are at least 1 degree Celsius warmer than the maximum average temperature - or the peak of what corals are used to - and persist for four or more weeks.

WHAT IS GOING ON WITH OCEAN TEMPERATURES THIS YEAR?

This year has seen an explosive and sustained bout of ocean heat as the planet deals with the effects of both climate change and an El Nino climate pattern, which yields warmer seas.

In March, global average sea surface temperature (SST) reached a record monthly high of 21.07C (69.93F), according to the EU Copernicus Climate Change Service.

"There's been a pretty large step change in the global average SST this year," said Neal Cantin, a coral biologist with the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences. "We're certainly in a new regime. Corals clearly aren't keeping up".

As the El Nino weakens, scientists say some of that ocean heat should diminish. But overall ocean warming will continue as climate change intensifies.

DO ALL BLEACHED CORALS DIE?

Corals can survive a bleaching event if the surrounding waters cool and algae return.

Scientists at the Palau International Coral Reef Center estimate that it takes at least nine to 12 years for coral reefs to fully recover from mass bleaching events, according to research published in 2019.

Disruptions such as cyclones or pollution can slow the recovery.

"Bleaching is like a fever in humans," said ecologist David Obura, director of Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean East Africa. "We get a fever to resist a disease, and if the disease is not too much, we recover. But if it is too much, we die as a result."

Scientists caution that corals this year have faced harsher and more prolonged high temperatures than ever before.

"What is happening is new for us, and to science," said Lorenzo Alvarez-Filip, a coral reef ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. "We cannot yet predict how severely stressed corals will do even when they survive the stress event, or how coral recovery will operate."

WHAT HAPPENS TO DEAD CORALS?

Dead reefs can still offer shelter to fish or provide a storm barrier over several years for coastal communities.

But eventually, these underwater graveyards of calcium carbonate skeletons will erode and break apart.

"It might take 10, even 20 years to see these consequences," Alvarez-Filip said.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP SAVE REEFS?

The best chance for coral survival is for the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions to limit climate change.

Many scientists think that at just 1.2C of warming above preindustrial level, the world has already passed a key threshold for coral reef survival. They expect between 70% and 90% of the world's coral reefs will be lost.

Scientists and conservationists are scrambling to intervene.

Local communities have cleanup programs to remove litter from the reefs to reduce further stresses. And scientists are breeding corals in labs with the hopes of restoring degraded reefs.

However, none of this is likely to work to protect today's corals from warming waters. Scientists are therefore trying to plan for the future by bringing coral larvae into cryopreservation banks, and breeding corals with more resilient traits.

Obura said that while it's important that scientists investigate such interventions, breeding genetically engineered corals is not the answer to climate change. "We have to be very careful about stating that it's the solution and that it's saving corals reefs now," he said.

"Until we reduce carbon emissions, they won't save coral reefs."