Coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans are dying off much quicker than previously thought, a new study shows. For the last two decades, Indo-Pacific reefs have shrunk by 1 percent each yearâ€”a loss equivalent to nearly 600 square miles (1,553 square kilometers). That makes the rate of reef loss about twice the rate of tropical rain forest loss. The research also revealed that the decline began in the late 1960sâ€”much earlier than had been assumed. “Twenty or 30 years ago reefs with a high cover of coral were fairly common,” said study co-author Elizabeth Selig, a marine ecologist from the University of North Carolina. “Today there are comparatively few reefs in the Indo-Pacific that we would traditionally think of as being pristine.” The study is the first to conduct a regional, long-term assessment of coral reef health in the Indo-Pacific region, which is home to 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs and the greatest diversity of coral and fish.