What is Coral Bleaching?
Written by: Grace Girzadas
Coral bleaching is one of the most prominent issues the ocean is facing today. Not only does coral bleaching remove the beautiful color from coral reefs, it is also extremely detrimental to the global ecosystem. Shockingly, about a quarter of the marine life in the ocean relies on coral reefs during their lifespan.
Coral bleaching occurs when coral comes under stress, which makes the coral release the algae that gives it protection and color. Factors such as a change in light, temperature, or level of nutrients all cause shocks to the coral reef and can influence coral bleaching. Other factors can be attributed more directly to human intervention, such as coastal development or water pollution. However, it is clear that the impact of rising ocean temperatures due to climate change is a massive reason why coral reefs have deteriorated worldwide.
Under the best circumstances, coral may be able to recover and survive after a coral bleaching incident if the conditions which it needs to survive return to normal. This recovery process can take years or possibly decades to occur. However, it is unfortunately more likely for the coral to never recover and die out after being bleached. This is due to the fact that in most cases, once ocean temperature changes or nutrient levels adjust, those changed conditions will never return to their normal level that would allow the coral to recover.
In order to protect the coral reefs, we must do what we can to lessen the impact of climate change on earth. Specifically, we need to combat air pollution, which causes a rise in ocean temperature due to high levels of greenhouse gasses being produced. Remember to take small steps when you can, such as reducing the number of small trips you take by car, or properly disposing of household waste so it does not unintentionally flow into the ocean. We can all do our part!