The gradually increasing temperature of ocean waters caused by global warming is launching a coral bleaching crisis, where most of the world’s beautifully colored reefs might perish in the aftermath.
- The worse global coral bleaching event took place in 1998, where 16% of worldwide corals died
- The event to arrive in 2016 is set to be the worst in history, especially when it hits the Great Barrier Reef
- Hawaii has been hit dramatically in 2014, with Florida seeing similar effects in August
- It has also affected Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, with the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to follow
The bleaching of coral reefs is spreading worldwide. It causes massive amounts of the marine invertebrates to go white and eventually die. The devastating phenomenon is caused by the rising temperatures within the waters, which leaves them more vulnerable to diseases. It’s now spreading and estimated to reach an all time high come next year.
Researchers at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a team of international scientists have taken to assessing the true effects of this issue. And, apparently, Hawaii is getting the brunt of this unfortunate event, where northwestern parts of the state have seen to a near complete bleaching of its coral reef.
The devastating effect of global warming does have precedents that date around 18 years back. Between 1997 and 1998, the last super El Nino caused mass coral bleaching around the world. Approximately 16% of our waters’ corals were killed by its effects, and up to 10% of Australia’s Grand Barrier Reef was gone. This was not only worrying for tourism, but for marine life as well.
A smaller El Nino followed between 2009-2010, which might’ve been even worse were it not for fortunately timed storms that cooled the coastline. Most of its effects were luckily spared.
However, it started again last year, in 2014, in Guam, continued with distressing effects in Hawaii, the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and is now moving forward to the Caribbean and Florida. The excessive heat stress from record high temperatures within our oceans are causing the fragile corals to bleach, their stunning colors to fade, and ultimately die.
According to professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the University of Queensland, if this continues unhindered, the Great Coral Reef is set to see widespread mortality in their coral population. The bleaching crisis is estimated to reach Australia next spring, in 2016.
It will cause problems for our population as well as the fish. Around 25% of the world’s fish species make their home around live coral reefs. The colorful and fascinating marine life protect the shorelines, produces substantial amounts of money due to tourism, and aids in feeding an estimated 500 million people around the globe. Their disappearance would be devastating.
Dr. Tyrone Ridgway, from Global Change Institute, has stated that while the 2016’s coral bleaching even might be the worse in history, there is a chance the corals will not die. If met with fortunate circumstances, they might bounce back and recover.
The Australian government is now taking protective measures into consideration, and applying them toward the Great Barrier Reef in order to shield this natural wonder of our world’s waters.
Image source: theconversation.com