A WORRYING 78% of coral reefs off Spain’s Costa Blanca have been damaged by global warming, according to a new study.

The Instituto de Ecología Litoral revealed this week that a rise in average sea temperatures has killed off or reduced substantial areas of coral in regional waters.

The report recorded temperature rises of two degrees, which had ‘bleached’ 42% of coral colonies.

Bleaching occurs when higher temperatures increase carbon dioxide levels in seawater, which allows the corals to get rid of some protective algae.

But this in turn makes coral polyps more susceptible to some types of bacteria that weakens them or even kills them off.

Gabriel Soler from the Instituto de Ecología Litoral said: “The changes in the sea are not just impacting coral, but also a variety of small marine species that we are studying as well.”

Monitoring has taken place off the Marina Baixa coast, as well as Cabo de las Huertas in Alicante, and Tabarca island.

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