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Massive Bleaching Threatens the World’s Coral Reefs

Massive Bleaching Threatens the World’s Coral Reefs

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Corals worldwide are at risk from a major episode of bleaching which turns reefs white, scientists have confirmed. The bleaching has hit reefs in the Pacific, Atlantic and Caribbean.

According to BBC environmental analyst Roger Harrabin, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned it may affect over 38% of the world’s reefs, and kill over 12,000 sq km of reefs. The mass bleaching is caused by rising water temperatures resulting from two natural warm currents and exacerbated by man-made climate change.

These images, taken in American Samoa, show the devastation caused by coral bleaching between December 2014 and February 2015.

These images, taken in American Samoa, show the devastation caused by coral bleaching between December 2014 and February 2015.

Bleaching happens when corals under stress drive out the algae known as zooxanthellae that give them colour. If normal conditions return, the corals can recover. But the process can take decades, and if the stress continues, the corals can die.

Reefs are under multiple threats including pollution, over-fishing, sedimentation and damage from boats and tourism. The current worldwide bleaching episode is predicted to be the worst on record as the warming Pacific current, El Nino, increases in strength. Water temperatures are being driven further by a separate natural warm-water mass dubbed the Pacific Blob.

Man-made climate change also contributes, as the oceans are absorbing about 93% of the increase in the earth’s heat. Additionally, corals face ocean acidification as CO2 emissions are absorbed into the oceans, changing the pH of seawater.

(Read the full report from BBC News.)

Avatar of Coral Triangle Written by Coral Triangle

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