An interns insight: Coral bleaching

Blog post by Kirstie

Corals are a beautifying agent of the ocean that connects you and me. These marine invertebrates that vary in color accommodates our marine wildlife, although it is mistaken at times as plants but are instead a fascinating marine animal. Corals have a mutually beneficial relationship with a specific type of microscopic algae known to be zooxanthellae.

Fun fact about the relationship between the corals and algae is that unlike usual algae growing in a visual figure outside of the plants and animals. Instead, zooxanthellae grow within the coral tissue acting as a coral’s primary food source and gives the coral color. Therefore, the corals have control on the number of zooxanthellae they contain by preserving and expelling the algae. So, through the colors of the corals we can then identify when corals are healthy or bleached.

        Coral bleaching occurs due to the stress they experience by human actions and the change in environmental conditions. Such as increase in seawater temperature or change in seawater chemistry. Stress can also be caused by pollution and climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions which then increases hurricanes, tornados, floods and even sea level rising which may add stress to the coral. As mentioned, corals have the ability and control on how much algae they can hold and expel and when corals are dramatically stressed by human and environmental actions, they expel so many algae. Which results in them being unable to survive as algae is their primary source of food. These causes are not only impacted by nature but also by human actions which does not only affect the coral reefs living conditions but also has a negative impact on us.  Pollution, runoff of toxins and the breaking off the coral parts are all caused by our careless habits and actions towards our environment, as our actions on land can easily affect our family at sea.

Source 1.1- Some images of corals bleached, caused by sea temperature rises, land-based pollution and runoff, and changes in ocean chemistry cause coral bleaching. (Source: NOAA)
Bleached coral

As we rely on coral reefs for the livelihood of our marine organisms that we may rely on for source of food and living but also corals reefs act as a barrier for huge waves and storms as they absorb the forces of waves and the surges of the storms. However, when coral bleaching occurs, and our coral reefs are weak and dying we then must build and rely on sea walls which has a negative impact on our coastal areas and scenery. Also, as tourism industry plays a great part on our economic development, tourists visit our shores to experience the Friendly islands beautifying corals and scenery. Who would want to travel and fly across the Pacific Ocean just to come and see plain white corals?

        Nevertheless, if we truly love our marine organisms and coastal scenery, we will work on to put a stop to the human actions that we have control of. By putting to use our reuse, reduce and recycle method as pollution does have an impact on coral bleaching.

 Also, the managing of our water usage as the more water we conserve the less wastewater enters our ocean. In addition, promote the less usage of herbicides and pesticides on the areas that runoff can occur, as this type of toxicity can intoxicate our waters and marine life creating harmful living conditions for our corals. Lastly, a usual habit of us when we visit our corals is that we hurt them by breaking, smothering, or crushing them this is the kind of mindset that needs to change as the corals grow and function of your safety benefits.

                              “The corals are our precious treasures, guarding and providing for you and I.”

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