What You Should You Know About Coral Reef Bleaching!

The Great Barrier Reef and other locations that are home to large amounts are coral are under attack by changes in their climate. Coral is becoming pearly white in the warming water temperatures. These white coral are a symptom of a larger issue that is influencing our oceans. Here is all you need to know about the current issue of widespread coral bleaching.

 

What is Coral Bleaching?

Normally, the color of coral ranges from dark browns and greens paired with color. The reason for these dark colors is because coral has algae that live inside their tissue. The coral polyps have an endosymbiotic relationship with the algae and are essential for any healthy coral. With coral bleaching, the polyps expel the algae, leaving the coral to look abnormally white. The coral polyps are still alive but the algae serve as 90 percent of the coral’s energy which leads to coral starvation

A recent estimation from this year stated the about 70 percent of shallow water corals had died near Port Douglas which is a town that is home to the Great Barrier Reef. The bleaching is not only hurting the visible part of the reef but it also has to harm non-visible parts as well.  It has been verified that 29 percent of shallow water corals died from bleaching during the year 2016.

Why many are so concerned with coral bleaching is because of how it creates environments for animals to dwell and how it could affect not only the ocean but also local economies. Reef tourism creates an annual income of $3.9 billion and also employs many Australians (70,000 people).

 

Why is it Happening?

There are quite a few factors as to why coral bleaching has become such a massive issue for most of the globe’s reefs. Above-average sea temperatures caused by a general increase of temperature is the leading cause of coral bleaching globally. Oxygen starvation increased solar irradiance, and changes in salinity are also factors that are influencing the death of coral reefs.

The years from 2014 to 2016 had some of the longest global bleaching events ever recorded.
El Niño, the major weather event, also played a major part in the change in temperature for an extended period of time. The weather event creates warmer than the average temperature in the Pacific Ocean. The impact of El Niño was seen directly in the Great Barrier massive bleaching event.