Coral Reef Bleaching

Coral reef bleaching has been an important discussion among supporters of environment protection laws for quite a long time. Considered to be significantly accelerated by global warming and pollution, the process is one that experts say is extremely bad for the ecosystem, bleaching events often causing the mass deaths of coral reefs in areas where they are vital for the nurturing of local marine life.

You may already know from school that coral reef formations are alive. They are responsible for forming the tree-like calcium carbonate structures that often prove to be invaluable for maintaining life in shallow waters, while the corals themselves are also credited for using up a large part of the CO2 in out planet’s waters, effectively maintaining the ecosystem healthy through that fact alone.

Unfortunately, since they are alive, corals can also die, and that’s what the coral bleaching process is all about. Dependent on their symbiotic relationship with single cell organisms called zooxanthellae for their continual survival, corals gradually lose the ability to maintain these algae-like organisms, under some circumstances, such as increased pollution or heightened water temperatures.

As a result, the zooxanthellae gradually leave the coral which is left without its nutrient source, and gradually dies off, effectively becoming bleached. Its white color is what gives coral bleaching its name.

The past few decades, scientists have tried to understand the causes of coral bleaching events and potentially work on reversing or preventing them. Due to the fact that coral can still recover in some cases, there is still hope; however, the destructive nature of bleaching events are very hard to counteract.

A good example is the massive bleaching event from 2005, when the US lost about half its coral population due to thermal stress caused by warm water currents in the northern Antilles, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Satellite data has confirmed that single event to be more destructive than all thermal stress caused in the area in the previous 20 years combined.

Pollution has a similar effect, and can be even more destructive at times. Stress from lower temperature water, however, can also cause bleaching, and was responsible for a 2010 coral bleaching event near the Florida Keys, where a 12 Fahrenheit degree drop in temperature has led to severe coral death.

Without coral reef, the world’s oceans could one day become barren and the pristine waters we bathe in during our holidays may even become deadly. It is extremely important, therefore, to understand coral bleaching and its relationship with pollution, and adopt a more responsible approach to minimizing the effects that our everyday actions have on the environment.

Can Coral Reefs Recover From Bleaching

Recovery from bleaching has been heavily discussed and widely researched by scientists trying to find solutions to catastrophes like the recent bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef; but can coral reefs recover from bleaching? Although it has been believed in the past that most coral reefs face an imminent death when subjected to bleaching, research indicates that some species show remarkable resilience when it comes to tolerating the factors and conditions that cause bleaching, and even recovering completely when the conditions in the water improve.

Can coral reefs recover from bleaching in the event that a large portion of the coral formation has already been affected? It’s known that corals first turn pale, then brown once they die because of bleaching. If they have perished completely, coral polyps cannot be revived. However, in some cases, they have been found to resist and recover from the bleaching process. Between 2010 and 2014, coral bleaching happened in a variety of geographic areas, including the Mariana Islands, Hawaii, the Florida Keys and the Marshall Islands. However, scientists have discovered many reef formations can rebound even when faced with near extinction and 90% bleaching damage.

Can coral reefs recover from bleaching if the process is already underway? Sea surface temperature patterns, the genetic identity of corals, the genetic variation in zooxanthellae, the problem of direct and indirect local stressors and the proximity to cooling water can also lead to the determination of whether or not corals can survive the bleaching process. Tolerance can also depend on how strong the coral reefs’ immunity is. A weakened immune system can easily lead to the risk of death during disease or contamination. Also, it’s important to remember that the severity of a bleaching event does not always lead to the risk of complete destruction, so that the reefs can even recover without help at times.

Depending on factors such as proximity to other corals for seeding, the presence of enough herbivores to fend off algae in the area, high competitive ability, good tissue regeneration and larval supply, some corals can easily recover, and the bleaching process might never kill them off entirely in the first place. While these factors are known by scientists to play a key role in determining whether a coral formation can recover from bleaching or not, they weren’t all known in the past. Today, the knowledge scientists have of them can help enhance coral conservation efforts significantly.

Coral Reef Bleaching Solutions

While coral bleaching has long been identified as a serious concern on a global scale, coral reef bleaching solutions are few and far between. Scientists have pinpointed the exact conditions required for healthy coral development, and they know what natural and man-made stressors play a role in the coral bleaching process. However, viable solutions for countering them on a large scale are still being discussed. Because time is short, and saving the planet’s coral reef populations would take enormous resources, there are still only a few solutions that can be used successfully today.

One of the most practical and essential coral reef bleaching solutions is to inform the general public about the impact that certain practices have on the environment. Initiatives like recycling have paid off in the past, and have helped diminish our impact on the environment as a whole. However, people are still unaware of the damage that coral bleaching can inflict on the environment as a whole, and not just on ocean life. As a result, educating people about the best ways to clean up beaches and bays, avoid throwing damaging substances in the water, and prevent damaging fishing and diving practices can work a great deal toward helping to prevent coral reef bleaching on a global scale.

Since water quality and the initial health of coral reefs can have an important impact on whether or not bleaching sets in, local protection initiatives have become one of the most recommended coral reef bleaching solutions in the world. Institutions like the Nature Conservatory are pushing for a number of initiatives that could slow or even reverse coral reef bleaching in some areas. They include the establishment of protected area networks, the improved management and design of modern marine parks, as well as enhanced management strategies designed to help people and officials respond better to coral reef bleaching events. With proper protection practices, some resilient reefs can even improve and become restored to being completely healthy. This process will, of course, be made more difficult by global warming and climate change as well.

A recently proposed initiative to stop the devastating bleaching events affecting the Great Barrier Reef involves the pumping of cold water into the area, in order to try reducing the temperature of the water around the Barrier Reef. This measure was labeled “Band-Aid,” and is still in the works, with an estimated cost of $9 million. The Reef and Rainforest Research Centre and many organizations in the tourist industry support the solution and consider it a highly localized but potentially practical solution that could be enhanced for future applications. Although it doesn’t solve the problem, this is one of the most ambitious coral reef bleaching solutions ever suggested.

Global Warming Causing Coral Reef Bleaching

The problem of global warming causing coral reef bleaching is certainly not a new one. The climate change that the planet has been experiencing in recent years affects coral reef populations in several different ways, leading to their overall weakening, structural damage, disease and higher vulnerability to factors such as changing water currents and ocean waves of increased intensity. While detrimental fishing practices and pollution have also been factors to think about, global warming is the single most influential cause of coral bleaching, as shown by the two recent bleaching events affecting the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and this year, and many smaller events documented throughout the world between the year 2000 and 2010.

One of the main problems that lead to global warming causing coral reef bleaching is the indirect effect that climate change has on the fragile ecosystem of coral reefs through unpredictable weather. While the Earth’s weather used to be relatively stable for thousands of years, the recent erratic weather patterns due to the changes caused by global warming worldwide have caused storms that are stronger and more frequent, changes in precipitations, the runoff of freshwater sediment, the increased acidification of the Earth’s ocean water and a damaging change in connectivity between established ocean currents. These factors can all lead to the structural damage of coral reef formations or an increased likelihood of contracting diseases that could even kill a large number of coral populations even on the healthiest of reefs.

Since the 19th century, ocean temperatures have been steadily rising, now getting close to a difference of more than 0.1 Celsius degrees at a depth of more than 700 meters. The rate of the oceans’ increasing warming has been about 0.13 degrees per decade, and since 1901, thermometers now point to temperatures of 2 C degrees higher. This relatively small difference is already causing the most fragile, endangered and vulnerable species of coral reefs to begin disappearing, and experts estimate that it could be the leading cause of coral reef bleaching during the next 50 years.

New research shows that sea levels are rising at an accelerated rate, and recent measurements have pointed out that rate to be 13% higher than expected. What does that mean for coral reef bleaching? With higher sea levels, reefs are getting less access to vital sunlight. Also, combined with increased water temperatures, a higher water pH and greater concentrations of carbon dioxide, the issue of global warming causing coral reef bleaching is intensifying by creating widely fluctuating and changing ocean conditions that many coral reef species simply can’t adapt to.

How Does Coral Bleaching Affect The Reef

How does coral bleaching affect coral reefs through all the multiple stressors and threats that are associated with the process of bleaching? What are the main external factors that lead to coral reef populations declining? How does bleaching affect the fish populations that reside close to coral reefs and use them for food or shelter? All these questions are essential to understand because of the impending threat that coral reef bleaching involves. While the direct effect of bleaching on coral communities is extremely important, we can’t ignore indirect concerns, such as its effect on the populations of fish that help maintain coral reefs and the increased risk of bleaching due to the problems caused by global warming.

Even though the biological process of coral bleaching has been thoroughly documented, how does coral bleaching affect coral reefs in the long run and what are its short term effects? To give a clear answer to this question, we have to first understand that bleaching primarily impacts the plant-like organisms known as zooxanthellae that, among other creatures, inhabit coral reefs and help them obtain vital nutrients by converting sunlight into usable energy. When the zooxanthellae are subjected to various stressors, such as high temperatures, chemicals or unsuitable water conditions, they leave their host, and the corals can often die. Depending on the threats that have affected the algae, coral polyps can be directly affected by low temperatures or pH levels, or they can decrease their immunity, becoming vulnerable to disease, stopping their growth cycles and shifting to an increasingly paler color as they approach death.

How does coral bleaching affect coral reefs indirectly? While its direct effects are devastating enough, along with all other fish species that depend on coral reefs, bleaching also affects herbivorous fish responsible for consuming alga. Macroalgal fish can disappear as a result of the adverse effects of the bleaching process and that of its causes, allowing macroalgae to dominate over reefs, reduce sun exposure and essentially replace coral-dominated reefs over time, as the bleaching process increases.

Bleaching is not only facilitated by the vulnerability of coral reefs due to worse water conditions and temperatures, but it can also cause the lessening of the coral polyps’ resistance to these factors. Polyps affected by diminished energy levels are not as capable of thriving under adverse conditions, such as the higher concentration of chemicals in the water and the increased exposure to UV radiation from the sun. The answer to our question will, therefore, depend a great deal on genetic conditions as well as external factors that lead to the increased vulnerability of coral reef populations.

How Does Coral Reef Bleaching Affect Humans

How does coral reef bleaching affect humans, and what are the environmental components of these concerns? While the environmental effects of bleaching are clear, people sometimes have the illusion that none of that will affect them. However, experts estimate that the loss of even 1km of coral reefs to bleaching can cost the economy in the area as much as $1.2 million, affecting tourism and fishing in particular.

Local populations in countries like the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia rely heavily on fishing for their sustenance, export and obtaining rare specimens and materials used for decorative purposes or in manufacturing. As coral bleaching continues to destroy coral populations in areas where fishing is an integral part of the local economy, the extinction or endangering of hundreds of species of fish and marine mammals can lead to a significant reduction in vital food and resources. As a result, entire countries can be affected, along with the countries they trade with.

If the fishing industry suffers, it can mean the loss of billions of dollars worldwide. But how does coral reef bleaching affect humans and what are its most significant impacts on the economy, aside from fishing? Tourism is also an important part of the picture, since millions of people and businesses thrive from providing tourists with beach access and opportunities like diving, chartering and various tours. With coral bleaching on the rise and coral reef formations affected by increased ocean acidity, reef barriers are no longer able to hold back stronger currents and waves from affecting the shoreline. Sandy beaches and pristine bays can become wastelands without corals to watch over them, which can significantly impact tourism in the future, if action is not taken to stop it.

Although a lot of people don’t think that far ahead, the reality is that, as a species, we have to consider the impact that coral reefs might have on our children, grandchildren and further descendants. In the long run, coral reef bleaching can potentially lead to the death of all coral populations in the world. When that happens, millions of species of marine life will die off as well, leaving much of the ocean a barren wasteland. Also, bleaching can impact the acidic properties of the world’s ocean by significantly reducing their pH levels. The question of how coral reef bleaching affects humans in this regard is clear, as a highly acidic ocean combined with huge tidal waves and weather anomalies will likely make life near most of the world’s coastlines almost unbearable.

What is Bleaching In Coral Reefs

What is bleaching in coral reefs and what should you know about it? The process of bleaching is by far the most problematic cause of the rapid decline in coral reef populations worldwide. Bleaching can occur at any time when corals are subjected to temperature fluctuations or changes in the quality of the water they reside in. Aside from water pollution, ozone depletion and global warming have been seen as one of the major recorded causes of coral bleaching.

What is bleaching in coral reefs and what are the main components of the process? The answer to this question has to do with basic microbiology. Coral polyps live in a symbiotic relationship with a type of marine plankton known as zooxanthellae, and they rely on this algae for nutrient production. During the bleaching process, the zooxanthellae start to pale, their photosynthetic pigments fading, and their densities gradually start to decline. Corals can lose up to 90% of their symbiotic plankton as a result of coral bleaching. During the process, the coral polyps themselves are greatly affected, and if the conditions that have led to coral bleaching aren’t reversed, the corals can die.

Ozone depletion and the increase in UV radiation from the sun is also partly responsible, and the increase in water temperature in many tropical regions was most closely related to coral bleaching. However, many other events could also be potential causes, depending on the area where the reefs are situated. Coral bleaching can be caused by fresh water dilution and the introduction of foreign, inorganic nutrients and compounds that are usually result from pollution and destructive fishing practices. Sudden exposure to air during extremely low tides and a sudden drop in water temperature can also worsen the problem.

What Is bleaching in coral reefs and how does it develop depending on specific oceanic regions? Also, when did coral bleaching become a problem in the first place? It has been known for some time that water pollution and climate change – which is also believed to be caused at least partly by pollution – have had the greatest impact on diminishing coral populations over the past century. Environmental problems seemed to have impacted tropical waters the most, leading to heightened water temperatures responsible for killing off coral reefs in many geographic areas in the 1980s. So, ultimately, the question how bleaching occurs in coral reefs can be answered by pointing out the impact of global warming over the past few decades and the fragile ecological balance necessary for coral reef survival in most tropical and subtropical waters.

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