Thirty years of dynamic growth in China has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, but the environmental damage has been brutal. The latest evidence: More than 80% of its coral reefs are gone, thanks to development, overfishing, and pollution, reports AFP. A new report calls the damage "a grim picture of decline, degradation, and destruction." Adds the study's author: "The window of opportunity to recover the reefs of the South China Sea is closing rapidly, given the state of degradation revealed."
Around the South China Seas, home to 12,000 square miles of coral reefs, environmental damage has been made worse by competing claims of sovereignty to portions of the waters. "On offshore atolls and archipelagos claimed by six countries in the South China Sea, coral cover has declined from an average of greater than 60% to around 20% within the past 10-15 years," said the report. (Read more South China Sea stories.)