By: Hannah LaFleur
Summary: With the oceans warming, from climate change, it is causing coral to die through the process of coral bleaching. This process is where the algae in the coral can no longer survive with the warm ocean temperatures. When the algae either leaves the coral or dies the coral becomes white at first and then fully dies if the water stays warm long enough. This is devastating for many coral reefs around the world. In the northern end of the Great Barrier reef, almost 80% of it is completely bleached from a bleaching event that took place in 2016. When that amount of a reef dies the whole ecosystem that relied on it either die as well or is forced to move elsewhere. Many fish count on the reef for shelter, protection, and food. Since the fish are forced to move or die this is also harming the fishing industry in these areas. The main areas fished in before suddenly don’t have the same amounts, so people are having to move to new areas or find new ways of life. Along with that, the reefs also help to regulate the ocean ecosystem as a whole, it’s the little part needed to lead up to the big parts. It also provides a natural barrier to the shoreline behind it. So, without it, more damage is happening on land as well. As you can see the coral reefs provide many things for the oceans with maintaining the balance of everything around it, where if they all were bleached mass extinction of many other species would likely happen as well.
Why we should care? With the reefs dying it is causing more damage to shorelines because there is no longer the natural barrier. It also is putting a big decline for the fishing industry with the fish either moving on or dying with no longer having the reef habitat.
Example News Article:
This article went into depth about what the process of coral bleaching is, why it’s happening, and the devastation results of the coral in the south pacific. They explain how there are four-step to coral bleaching which is healthy, fluorescing, bleaching, and dead. They show 360° footage from different periods which captures the corals in the neon colors that eventually turn white. The last pictures of the dead coral you see now surrounding marine life and truly shows the collapse of an ecosystem. Another interesting point brought up in the article was the relation between the bleaching events and El Niño. Although this can’t be the only factor because bleaching events have happened on the off years of El Niño, it just happens to be extreme events for the on years.
Science in Action.
Dr. Forest Rohwer is a marine microbial ecologist at San Diego State University.
Dr. Forest Rohwer’s research is coinciding exactly with the coral bleaching epidemic. He really focuses on looking at what makes up the coral in order to better understand why the bleaching is happening. He further looks into the diversity of coral reefs with them holding different fungi, bacteria, viruses, and etc. He uses these to understand what is positively and negatively affecting the coral itself and basically what it can withhold. After this, he brings in the human impact and looking at the stress we have put on the coral reefs. Overall, Rohwer truly breaks down the effects each factor has on the coral reefs and what it can withhold before the bleaching event takes place.