I like photography. I like food and I like to cook. What I also like is diving and snorkeling. See the magnificent underwater world in all its beauty, corals and fish. Well that beauty in the form of corals and not much later, fish, cannot be seen for much longer. As the results of global warming, this year 2016, a massive global coral bleach is happening.
Massive bleached reef at Fiji. (Photo: http://www.globalcoralbleaching.org/)
What is coral bleaching ?
On the surface, coral bleaching looks exactly like what you’re envisioning right now: white, bleached-out coral reefs, which is quite a departure from the colorful structures we all know and love.
“The first thing to understand is that corals get their brilliant colors from tiny algae that live in their tissues. These tiny organisms live in harmony with coral animals, and they basically share resources,” Wear explains. “For example, the most important thing that the algae do is provide food to the corals through carbohydrates they produce during photosynthesis.”
“The next thing to understand is that corals have a limited temperature range within which they can live,” Wear continues. “When it gets too hot, they get stressed out—and this relationship with the algae goes sour. The tiny algae are ejected from the corals, turning them white, thus the term ‘bleached.’”
When does it happen ?
Elevated sea temperatures — often “thanks” to climate change — are the biggest culprits when it comes to coral bleaching. El Niño also plays a role in heating up ocean waters. “The bleaching activity this year was actually predicted last year because of the El Niño cycle that began in mid-2009,” says Wear.
But it can be a perfect storm of stress factors, like the ones listed below, that lead to significant bleaching events:
* Extra-bright sunlight, especially when combined with the aforementioned extra-warm seawater
* Pollution from urban or agricultural run-off
* Changes in the salinity, or saltiness, of seawater
* Sedimentation from undersea activities like dredging
Lots of living things (including humans) under serious stress may be more susceptible to problems with their health, and corals are no exception. Coral reefs—they’re just like us!
How bad is it ?
Bad… I mean really bad. Look at the charts below.
This is a chart which explains the Thermal Stress. In other words: warmer water, rise in temperature. Around Australia, everything is on Alert Level 1 or 2.
This chart is about the major treats to coral reefs.
This chart shows you the difference in coral bleaching since 1998.
“If the reefs vanished, experts say, hunger, poverty and political instability could ensue.” Since countless sea life depends on the reefs for shelter and protection from predators, the extinction of the reefs would ultimately create a domino effect that would trickle down to the many human societies that depend on those fish for food and livelihood. There has been a 44% decline over the last 20 years in the Florida Keys, and up to 80% in the Caribbean alone.
On these links you can find a lot of information. Please read it.
Coral Bleaching Great Barrier Reef
The Third global coral bleaching event
Coral Bleaching Explained by NOAA