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What is Coral Bleaching?

Coral Bleaching Meaning - You might have heard about scuba diving. It's a very beautiful and thrilling experience. Isn’t it? The beautiful and coloured corals can be seen under the sea. Do you know how these corals look so beautiful? They look so beautiful because their stunning colours come from marine algae called zooxanthellae. These algae live inside their tissue. The function of these tissues is to provide food to the corals. The corals can grow and reproduce with the help of these algae. 

When the corals are disturbed by external factors such as pollution or heat, they start expelling the algae. This leaves just the ghostly and transparent skeleton behind known as coral bleaching. When the algae leave the corals, it keeps fading until it looks like it is bleached. So, if we have to write the coral bleaching definition, we will write as - The leaving of algae from the corals, leaving the coral reef dead is called reef bleaching.


What Triggers Coral Reef Bleaching?

One of the most common coral bleaching causes is the change in the climate. We know that at present, global warming is the greatest threat to life on Earth. Because of global warming, planet Earth is warming up - the seas are warming up. This heating of ocean waters is one of the major causes of coral bleaching. There are other causes too such as pollution, overfishing, low tides, too much sunlight, and coastal development that causes coral to bleach. 


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Effects of Coral Reef Bleaching

Coral reef bleaching is a threat to the environment. When these corals die, they never or rarely come back. The number of corals becomes limited and they struggle to reproduce. As a result, the coral family is extinguishing. 


Coral Bleaching’s Impact on Wildlife

Coral reefs are the support system for many biodiverse ecosystems. They are the source of survival for many species such as sea turtles, fishes, crabs, sea birds, jellyfishes, starfishes, shrimps, and many more. They provide shelter, spawning grounds, and protection to many species. Coral Reefs also are an important part of ocean food chains. As the coral reefs are destroyed because of bleachings, these marine lives and the ocean food chain gets disturbed and some species may face extinction. 


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Coral Bleaching’s Impact on Humans

Coral reefs are a support system for humans living in coastal areas. They have an impact on people’s safety, food, and livelihoods. The Coral Reefs act as natural barriers to absorb the storm surges and the force of waves keeping the people of coastal areas safe. If there are no coral reefs, we have to build a seawall manually which will be very costly, will have fewer effects, and will be damaging to the environment. Coral bleaching also impacts fishes and the people who rely on fishes for their source of income. Also, coral reef tourism is a source of income for many individuals and also contributes to a nation’s economy. 


Do You Know?

The largest and richest coral reef in the world is the Great Barrier Reef. It has been protected since the 1970s. The fish population tripled after the marine sanctuary for Apo Island in the Philippines was created in the year 1982. The marine protected areas, where fishing and fishing methods are regulated, are called Reefs at Risk Revisited. The bleached great barrier reef is a threat to our marine beauty and also to humans.


How to Stop Coral Bleaching and Protect Coral Reefs?

Either we live in coastal areas or far from the sea, we can do our part to protect the coral reefs and stop coral bleaching. Whatever we do on the land, in some ways affects the water. So, we should take care of our activities to stop the pollution which will eventually impact global warming and other activities too so that the coral reef bleaching can be stopped. 

Here are a few to-do lists to stop coral bleaching and protect the coral reefs:

  • While visiting the coral reefs, we should avoid touching them or disturbing them anyway. If we make any contact, it can damage the corals and may even kill them.

  • The cosmetics that we use may harm the coral reefs. So, we should avoid cosmetics while visiting them.

  • We should be careful while throwing the trash as marine trash is very harmful to the coral reefs. We should never throw plastics and other nonbiodegradable things near the beach or in the water to stop debris pollution. 

  • The fertilizers that we use for the plants wash away in the water which harms the marine animals and the coral reefs. We should minimize the use of fertilizers. 

  • We should try to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. The emission of greenhouse gases causes ocean acidification and increases ocean temperature. This becomes one of the main causes of coral bleaching. 

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Can Coral Bleaching Be Recovered?

Ans - There are chances that the coral reefs are recovered from the bleaching. The corals may regain their bright colours and algae. But if the causes of coral bleaching persist, there is no way that the bleaching can be reversed. We should take action to stop the causes that cause coral bleaching as soon as possible to save the coral reefs.

2. How Much Time Does it Take For the Coral Bleach to Recover?

Ans - As per the study, the corals may take decades (9 to 11 years) to recover from bleaching on the condition that re bleaching has not happened. The time required for the coral to recover from bleaching also depends on their habitat and their species. 

3. What are the Ecological Impacts of Coral Bleaching?

Ans - Ecological impacts of coral bleaching are:

  • The bleached corals have reduced growth rates, increased susceptibility to diseases, decrease reproductive capacity and elevate mortality rates.

  • When the corals die because of bleaching, they decline in genetic and species diversity. 

  • When more susceptible species are killed by bleaching, change in coral community composition occurs.

  • When a change in coral community composition occurs, it also affects the species that depend on them. Few such examples are of fish and invertebrates who rely on coral reefs for food, shelter, and habitat.

  • Change in abundance and composition of reef fish assemblages occurs when coral reefs die.

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