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Staggering shift in frequency of coral bleaching events

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Thursday, January 25, 2018, 4:09 PM - Warming waters are hurting the world's coral reefs almost five times more than they did 30 years ago.

New research, published in the journal Science, says that hotter waters caused by global warming has impaired reefs by causing them to bleach more frequently than they did in the 1980s.

The study looked at 100 coral reefs and found that the frequency of bleaching had gone from once every few decades, to once every six years.

According to the U.S. National Ocean Service, coral reefs are sessile animals fixed in place. Bleaching occurs when the reef reacts to stressful changes in temperature, light, nutrients and other conditions. This makes the animal eject the symbiotic algae in their tissue and turn pale white.

Corals can survive and even recover, but continued bleaching eventually leads to death.

Corals reefs are critical to the world's fish population and are important for tourism, coast protection against heavy storms, typhoons and even tsunamis. According to the World Wildlife, corals account for almost US$30 billion each in goods and services.

VIDEO: Great Barrier Reef suffers yet another coral bleaching event:

New method could help with restoration efforts

But researchers have found a new way to cheaply and efficiently restore dying corals, using a method similar to how farmers scatter seedlings onto a field.

With the world's corals deteriorating at an alarming rate, and restoration often slow and laborious, a team of scientists from nonprofit group Secore International has come up with a better approach to sowing corals.

According to Secore, the new method involves harvesting coral larvae and planting them on tetrapod-shaped cement substrates. In a few weeks, the larvae will turn into coral polyps which can be sown on the reef. The seeding units don't require manual attachment and only need to be wedged into reef's crevices. One day, they can be sown from boats or by underwater drone.

Twelve months after the sowing, the scientists found at least one coral growing on half the units.

They believe the technique can sow 10,000 corals in just 50 working hours, compared to the hundreds or even thousands of hours needed for common restoration methods.

The team is currently working to refine each step of their novel sowing approach.

WATCH: My first time: Grey, bleached & not what I expected

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