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Coral Bleaching: a Catastrophic Marine Event

Environmental changes can be deadly for coral. The impacts of ocean warming and acidification is increasing due to climate change, this can cause coral bleaching.

The event of coral bleaching takes place when there is a change in water temperature or water quality. This causes corals to expel zooxanthellae (algae) and causes them to turn white. Changing color does not mean the coral is immediately dead; they will revert back to their normal shade when ocean temperatures & water quality return to their previous state. However, the chances of ocean temperature and water quality returning to normal after being knocked out of equilibrium is extremely rare with how fast climate change is affecting our oceans.

Coral bleaching is devastating for the ecosystem and the creatures that reside in it. Many marine animals such as fish, sea turtles, crustaceans, and jellyfish rely on coral reefs for protection and breeding grounds. Without the existence of reefs due to coral bleaching, there is a major deadly chain reaction for marine animals as the coral is at the base of ocean food chains. Without the reefs this results in a home location for many marine species to be lost, which makes them vulnerable to predators. Coral reefs cover less than 1% of the ocean, but house more than 25% of marine life. There would be a ripple effect and many species of fish and turtles would slowly decrease out of existence and marine biodiversity would never recover.

Human carbon emissions cause ocean temperature to increase exponentially and will allow the ocean to continue warming. The ocean absorbs the emissions that are put out into the atmosphere causing ocean temperature to increase dramatically. Water runoff is also a component of what is causing coral reef death around the world. When contaminated stormwater gains access to a body of water, products such as gasoline, heavy metals, chemicals, and bacteria are dispersed. This is an unfortunate event that is sickening for marine species and is deadly for coral.

Both of these things in turn are crippling and sometimes fatal for many creatures who rely on coral for survival. Everything in this world relies on each other in the circle of life and the event of coral bleaching affects human life intensely in some areas of the world. Millions of people rely on the reefs for income, food, and even protection from storms. As time goes on the education on the protection of coral reefs and lowering carbon emissions is crucial.


1) “CO2 And Ocean Acidification: Causes, Impacts, Solutions.” Union of Concerned Scientists,

2) “Everything You Need to Know about Coral Bleaching-and How We Can Stop It.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund,

3) “Global Ocean Absorbing More Carbon.” National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), 25 Aug. 2021,

4) Reef-World. “What Would Happen If There Were No Coral Reefs?” The Reef-World Foundation, The Reef-World Foundation, 16 Mar. 2021,

5) US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “What Is Coral Bleaching?” NOAA's National Ocean Service, 15 Mar. 2010,


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