| The 1982-83 El Niño
killed many corals in the eastern Pacific. All or part of the coral colonies
bleached and therefore died. In the year following the El Niño, conditions
were favorable for the growth and survival of young sea urchins. Unfortunately,
sea urchins scrape away the coral skeleton of a reef as they graze on algae.
Due to the increase in the sea urchin population, the death of the corals
was followed by increased erosion, destroying the reef structure. These
two events occurring in succession destroyed corals that might be used to
obtain a record of past climate. This slide from Saboga Island, Panama shows
the erosion by sea urchins of a coral partially killed in the 1982-83 El
Niño. Fifteen years after these events, many reefs in the eastern
Pacific are still eroding faster than corals are depositing skeletons.
NOAA Paleoclimatology Program
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