Scientists studied 124 coral reef sites around the Samoan island of Upolu, 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii. While climate change is the main factors in coral die-offs worldwide, human activities like overfishing and pollution also contribute.
The researchers thought reefs around remote Upolu might be faring better than sites like the Great Barrier Reef. Instead, they found that the coral was badly damaged and dying. In half the sites surveyed, live coral coverage was below one percent, and 80 percent of sites had below 10 percent coverage.
Just two years ago the coverage may have been between 60 and 80 percent. Two species of fish found in the reefs were also 10 percent smaller than individuals around nearby islands. The researchers think a combination of physical damage from tropical cyclones, climate change, and local activity all play a role in the coral's dire situation.