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The Effects of Coral Bleaching

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In this modernized era, Earth is impacted by numerous biological dilemmas every day. One biological problem facing the world today would be the endangered ecosystems of the coral reefs. Corals are found all over the world, in both the shallow and deep parts of the ocean. However, coral reefs are only found in tropical and subtropical waters. (Knowlton, 2018). Coral reefs are only sustainable within the temperatures range of 22 -29 degrees Celsius, anything higher or lower will result in the decrease in the cognitive function of the coral reefs (Knowlton, 2018). The coral reefs occupy less than 1% of the ocean floor yet, it inhabits over 25% of the marine life in the ocean (Knowlton, 2018), housing thousands of species, making the ecosystem one of the most biodiverse communities on earth. This indicates the corals reefs ability to adapt to the constantly changing environments, but that may not always be the case.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem located at the coast of Australia going about 1,400 miles (2,253.08 km) long (Nace, 2018) The Great Barrier reef exhibits biodiversity and a symbiotic ecosystem but now it displays a semi dead reef with bleached corals. Throughout 1979-1998, the coral reefs have experience multiple incidents of coral bleaching. Even though 80% of the corals where bleached only 20% of the reefs died (Knowlton, 2018). Coral bleaching is does not necessarily mean the corals die, it all depends on how long and severe the bleaching is. Back in 2016 another incident of the coral bleaching occurred this time the bleaching occurred for a longer period causing a more permanent damages. However, right after the 2016 bleaching after another bleaching incident occurred in 2017, leading a 50% decrease of the coral reefs being uninhabitable and perished(Nace, 2018). The continually increase in ocean waters will lead the coral reefs into a more frequent bleaching making it harder for the reef to recover.

Coral bleaching is a process of when the corals lose it vibrant colours and becomes a pale white colour. This occurs from the symbiotic relationship between a coral and algae; zooxanthellae who live within the corals providing a source of protection and nourishment (Davin, & Brannet. 2010) On the other hand due to an increase in temperatures the corals will become aggravated and reject the zooxanthellae from within, leaving the corals more susceptible to starvation and infections from bacterias. If the zooxanthellae are not accepted within the corals polyps, to continue the symbiotic relationship will not continue and the coral colonies will die. (Thomas, Davin, & Brannet, 2009, pg 42). Not only does the uprise of the temperatures affect the corals but an increase in CO2 produces more acidity within the ocean resulting in a decrease of calcification within corals. (Riegl, Bruckner, Coles, Renaud, & Dodge, 2009) Furthermore, human impact is also the number one source of endangering the coral reefs. This would be due to the destructive over fishing, pollutants released by humans into the ocean and distribution of the coral habitats. (Riegl, Bruckner, Coles, Renaud, & Dodge, 2009) The human impact on the coral reef not only lies within a local scale but within a global scale with the increase of greenhouse gases within the atmosphere and the warming of the ocean waters.

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The coral reefs play a vital role in both economically and ecologically. The coral reefs is greatly beneficial as it act as buffers to protect coastlines, to providing a habitable shelter for countless marine organisms as well as providing for local economies. (Thomas, Davin, & Brannet, 2010, pg 94). The coral reefs provide various ecological functions such as coastal protection from storms and huge waves, biotic services from the diverse ecosystem along

larger gene pools within the marine ecosystem to be able to adapt and survive environmental changes and biogeochemical services, such as nitrogen and carbon fixations (Thomas, Davin, & Brannet, 2010, pg 97). The reefs also provide renewable resources such as fishing . The reef also benefits the local economies income by providing jobs, tourism and recreational activities, having a high economic value. However, with the uprise of coral bleaching occurring frequently, the corals reefs will start to undergo extinction within the next decade. This would have a traumatic impact on both the ecology and economy aspects. With the coral reef disappearing, the diversity within the marine ecosystems will be gone, economies who depend on the ocean will also suffer.

In order for the coral reefs to recover from the frequent coral bleaching, the temperature of the ocean would have to stop increasing so the corals can reproduce within the reef. However the temperature within the ocean is still on a constant rise so other methods will need to be used. Using the $1,000,000 investment ecological coral farms can be build to provide a sanctuary for the corals to rehabitable from the coral bleaching. The corals will later then be place back into the ocean when suitable. Moreover, within the coral farms, cross breeding of the corals could create a new breed of corals that that have a higher tolerance to warmer temperatures. Cross- breeding native corals with corals of higher tolerance to hot temperatures can create offsprings that are able to adapt to the rising temperatures. Although, the decline in the coral reef is prominent, with these solutions the coral reefs should recover from becoming a pale white inhabitable ecosystem, to the most vibrant and biodiverse ecosystem on earth.

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The Effects of Coral Bleaching. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 24, 2023, from
“The Effects of Coral Bleaching.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
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