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Coral Reefs

Coral Reef

When you think of Hollywood bad guys -- say, the Joker in Batman -- they're 'bad to the bone.' They try to take over the town, seize its good citizens, and alter life as folks know it. Well, the same goes for macro-algae, or seaweed. It's the bad guy of the coral reef -- or at least, of some.

Seaweed can overrun coral reefs, smothering baby coral. And when that happens, reefs have trouble rebounding from plights like hurricanes and disease.

But it turns out that the problem's not so widespread as originally thought. American marine ecologists John Bruno and William Precht recently teamed with Australian scientist Hugh Sweatman to pour over thousands of reef surveys taken between 1996 and 2006. It was the first global analysis of its kind.

They tagged a reef as "seaweed-dominated" if seaweed covered fifty percent or more of the reef.

To their surprise, and relief, only four percent of reefs matched this description. The findings add to the knowledge base that is helping marine experts manage coral reefs.

And while scientists continue to monitor encroaching seaweed, it's good to know that this "bad guy of the reef" isn't winning in this real-life drama.

Script by Bob Rhein

Discovery Links

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