The only hope to save the world's coral reefs is to take immediate action to stop climate change, according to new research published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The study analyzed 2016 bleaching events in the Great Barrier Reef, finding that they were mostly driven by rising temperatures and that local efforts to reduce pollution and overfishing did little to keep the reefs alive. 2016 was the worst year for coral bleaching worldwide, with more than 90 percent of the corals on the Great Barrier Reef affected.


Only nine percent of the reef has avoided bleaching since 1998. "Climate change is not a future threat," the study's lead author, Terry P. Hughes, told the New York Times. "On the Great Barrier Reef, it's been happening for 18 years."

"We didn't expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years," Hughes added.

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