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The Seafloor Is Disappearing

By Marlene Cimons

Much of the deep sea has never been explored close-up by humans. Some submarines have plumbed its depths, but reaching the ocean bottom is a complicated and expensive journey, challenging because the seabed lies under more than three miles of water, which exerts huge amounts of pressure. "We know more about space than about the bottom of the oceans in our own planet, even though more than two-thirds of the surface of the Earth is covered by marine sediments," said Olivier Sulpis, a researcher and doctoral student at McGill University's department of earth and planetary sciences.

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Hawaii, Cauliflower coral (Pocillopora meandrina) with surface reflections. Robinson Ed / Perspectives / Getty Images

Hawaii's Cauliflower Coral Moves Toward Endangered Species Act Listing

Cauliflower coral, a bushy species in the Hawaiian Islands that has been devastated by ocean warming triggered by human-caused climate change, could soon get federal protection. The National Marine Fisheries Service Wednesday announced that listing the species may be warranted under the Endangered Species Act, based on a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity.

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QUT

‘Drones of the Sea’ Will Protect the Great Barrier Reef From Coral-Killing Starfish

The Great Barrier Reef is under constant threat from climate change and aggressive pests, so it's a good thing that scientists at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have built it it's own Terminator to defend it.

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Politics

Australian Prime Minister Ousted Over Climate Policy

Conservative lawmaker Scott Morrison has forced out Malcolm Turnbull as Australian prime minister, the third time the country's leader has sunk over climate policy in the past decade, and the seventh since 1997, according to Australia's ABC News.

An internal Liberal party row started when Turnbull proposed modest emissions targets for the country's energy sector. He dropped the plans Monday after pressure from the party's right-wing faction, but that led to a narrowly defeated leadership challenge from Peter Dutton on Tuesday, then a final ousting from Morrison on Friday.

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Oceans
New Caledonia is home to the world's third-largest coral reef structure, a UNESCO World Heritage site. NASA

New Caledonia Bans All Types of Extraction Surrounding Pristine Coral Reefs

The French overseas territory of New Caledonia announced Tuesday the highest possible levels of protection for some of the world's last unspoiled coral reefs.

All types of extraction, including commercial and industrial fishing, has been banned in the Chesterfield, Bellona, Entrecasteaux, Pétrie and Astrolabe coral ecosystems, according to a Tuesday press release from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which has long pushed the reefs' protection.

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New computer forecasting tools could buy time to help corals in trouble, like this knobby finger coral in Hawaii. Keoki Stender / marinelifephotography.com

Forecasting Coral Disease Outbreaks Could Buy Time to Save Reefs

By Amy McDermott

Hawaii's knobby finger coral careened toward extinction in 2015. The species was so rare that scientists could only find a few fragments in the wild, scattered across the seabed of Oahu's Kaneohe Bay.

It might have been a familiar story. Vanishing species like Southern Resident orcas and North Atlantic right whales pile up in the news. Outlooks are especially bleak for corals. Rising ocean temperatures cause bleaching, which has killed 30 to 40 percent of reefs worldwide in recent years. But the knobby finger coral's story didn't go that way, thanks to computer forecasting: science's crystal ball.

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Plates of leaf-like foliose corals are common on the Philippines' Benham Bank. Oceana / UPLB

'Twilight Zone' Reefs Win a Conservation Spotlight

By Allison Guy

In May 2016, technical divers descended 200 feet to Benham Bank, the shallowest portion of a huge underwater plateau off the Philippines' northeast tip. As they neared the bottom, an otherworldly landscape emerged from the dim cobalt blue.

Plates of coral grew one atop the other like china at a yard sale, dotted with sea fans and sprigs of algae. Coral columns encrusted in yellow, orange and pink coralline algae looked as though they'd been splashed with rainbow paint. Colonies thrived as far as the eye could see.

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Major coral bleaching event in 2016 at Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Oregon State University/ Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Great Barrier Reef in Danger of Mass Coral Bleaching Events Every Two Years

The Great Barrier Reef—Australia's remarkable but imperiled natural wonder—is under risk of repeat coral bleaching events unless greenhouse gas emissions are slashed, Australia's Climate Council warned Thursday.

The new report, Lethal Consequences: Climate Change Impacts on the Great Barrier Reef, determined that by 2034, the extreme ocean temperatures that led to the mass bleaching events of 2016 and 2017 may occur every two years if emissions continue on current trends.

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Oceans
Coral reef outcrop part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge and the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Lindsey Kramer / USFWS / CC BY-NC 2.0

Hawaii to Approve Landmark Ban on Coral-Damaging Sunscreens

Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed a bill Tuesday prohibiting the sale of sunscreen that contains chemicals considered harmful to ocean ecosystems, including coral reefs.

The Aloha State is the first in the nation to enact such a law.

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