Another Australian reef has been declared dead as a result of coral bleaching. This time around, the world is mourning the death of the Great Southern Reef, which was 1,400 miles long.
Marine scientists are now putting coral reefs on high alert, as high temperatures continue to threaten the loss of color and life for the reefs and the many creatures and organisms that call coral reefs home. Marine scientists believe that coral bleaching is in some ways preventable.
While most of the world was paying close attention to the land and sky animals whose lives were directly threatened by global warming, many missed the clear signs that the world’s largest and most famous reefs were in trouble. Director of the Nature Conservatory, Stephanie Wear, explained the process of coral bleaching and how it will impact oceans and people.
“The first thing to understand is that corals get their brilliant colors from tiny algae that live in their tissues. These tiny organisms live in harmony with coral animals, and they basically share resources. For example, the most important thing that the algae do is provide food to the corals through carbohydrates they produce during photosynthesis.”
With algae being the sole food source for coral reefs, high global temperatures are dangerous to the beautiful sites. Algae cannot live in high temperatures, instead, it goes sour. Once this happens it is impossible for the coral reef to absorb the algae. At that point, the coral reef starves and begins to lose its color. According to Wear, if the algae are not replenished in time, the coral reef will die along with the sour algae.
“Corals have a limited temperature range within which they can live. When it gets too hot, they get stressed out.”
What does this mean for us? Well, coral reefs serve the world in many ways. Their extinction is likely to directly affect fishing and travel industries, according to the Nature Conservancy. But coral reefs serve an even deeper purpose.
Coral reefs offer a home to more than 25 percent of marine species in existence today. Coral reefs also protect shorelines and may be the key to future medical breakthroughs.
The death of the world’s coral reefs is causing a domino effect in the seas. Recently, coral bleaching has been linked to the death of kelp forests which show no signs of restoration. Marine scientists like Adriana Verges of the University of South Wales are calling this widespread kelp forest problem the worst in marine history.
“They have provided alarming and detailed evidence for one of the most dramatic climate-driven ecosystem shifts ever recorded.”
Scientists say that Florida, home to one of the largest coral reefs in the world could learn a thing or two about how Australia has handled this unfortunate problem. But recent news reveals that Florida’s coral reefs are decaying much more rapidly than the reefs in Australia did. Reportedly, this is because scientist were not paying attention. Robert Carmichael of Project Baseline told CNN just how the United States got so behind on monitoring the health of Florida’s reefs. Corroborating Carmichaels claims, Chris Langdon a marine biologist from the University of Miami, revealed that marine science has much more discovery to do.
“We didn’t think this would happen for another 50 or 60 years,This study showed a whole new thing we didn’t even know was threatening them.”
Based on the unawareness of marine scientists in places like Florida and Australia, the world may come upon more luck in saving coral reefs by minimizing its carbon footprint. According to the Nature Conservancy, people can contribute by limiting their driving and saving energy.
[Image via Shutterstock]