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Paleo Slide Set: Coral Paleoclimatology
Erosion of (Pavona), Saboga Island, Panama
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.

Photo Credits:
Mark Eakin
NOAA Paleoclimatology Program

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Last Modified: 3 March, 2002

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