How to save heat-stressed corals

Coral reefs

When corals lose their bright hues and turn white, they are experiencing bleaching. However, this phenomenon is not solely due to color loss. Corals are naturally colorful due to the presence of small algae called zooxanthellae that reside within the coral. Many people wonder how to save heat-stressed corals and what they can do to contribute to improvement.

In this article we are going to tell you how to save corals stressed by heat and what impacts their bleaching has.

What causes coral bleaching to occur?

How to save corals stressed by heat and climate change

Algae and corals have a mutualistic relationship, meaning they help each other survive. However, if the ocean temperature changes, for example if it becomes too warm, the corals become stressed and release the algae. As the algae emerge, the coral fades until it appears bleached. If the temperature continues to rise, the coral will no longer allow the algae to return and will die.

Coral bleaching is mainly due to climate change, which causes an increase in the planet's temperature and, consequently, warmer oceans. Even a modest two-degree increase in water temperature can cause corals to expel their algae. On top of that, corals can also suffer bleaching through other means, such as extremely low tides, pollution, or excessive exposure to sunlight.

The concern around coral bleaching is multi-faceted. Coral reef bleaching occurs when the symbiotic relationship between the coral and the algae that live on it is disturbed, causing the coral to expel the algae and turn white. This process can be triggered by a variety of stressors, including rising sea temperatures, pollution, overfishing and ocean acidification.

Coral bleaching not only threatens the survival of the coral itself, but also negatively affects the marine ecosystem as a whole, as coral reefs provide habitat and refuge for numerous species of fish and other marine life. Without healthy coral reefs, ocean biodiversity and the livelihoods of those who depend on it are at risk.

The issue of coral bleaching is a cause for concern because coral death often causes irreversible damage to reefs. Even if some corals manage to survive, their ability to reproduce is severely compromised. This represents a significant threat to reef ecosystems that support human and animal populations and which are currently in a state of decline.

Studies on coral bleaching

how to save corals stressed by heat

The phenomenon of whitening is not a fact that exists in isolation. Recent studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveal that from 2014 to 2017, a staggering 75% of tropical coral reefs located around the world were subject to temperatures high enough to cause coral bleaching. For 30% of these reefs, heat stress was severe enough to cause coral death.

The impact of coral bleaching on wildlife is an issue of great concern. Coral bleaching can have important consequences for the ecosystems that depend on it. The loss of coral can lead to a decline in the population of fish and other marine animals that depend on it for food and shelter.

Additionally, coral loss can have a ripple effect throughout the food chain, impacting the largest predators in the ecosystem. Addressing the issue of coral bleaching and its impact on wildlife is crucial to preserving the balance of our oceans.

It is known that the planet's coral reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems that exist. A multitude of marine animals depend on these reefs to exist, such as various species of sea turtles, fish, crabs, shrimp, jellyfish, sea birds, starfish and many others. These coral reefs offer these creatures a safe haven, breeding grounds, and refuge from predators. Additionally, they play a crucial role in the ocean food chain by providing food for other organisms. However, as these reef ecosystems crumble, already vulnerable species may be pushed to the brink of extinction.

Negative impacts on the environment

corals

The effects of coral bleaching on humans are significant. When coral reefs experience bleaching, this affects the abundance and variety of marine life that humans depend on for their livelihood. Besides, Coral reefs are often called “tropical rainforests of the sea” because of their biodiversity., making them a popular tourist destination. When coral reefs are damaged, it damages the tourism industry and the economies of the communities that depend on it.

Finally, coral reefs provide a natural barrier against storms and erosion, protecting coastal areas and the people who live there. When coral reefs weaken, they cannot perform this vital function, leaving humans more vulnerable to natural disasters.

The consequences of coral bleaching are broad, affecting not only livelihoods but also food security. Coral reefs act as natural barriers, mitigating the impact of storms and tides, thus safeguarding coastal communities. In the absence of coral, we rely on expensive artificial dams that are less effective and harmful to the environment. Coral loss also exacerbates the overfishing crisis by disrupting the food chain and depriving several species of fish and crustaceans. This loss has serious implications for those whose livelihood and main source of protein depend on these animals.

Finally, the tourism industry that thrives around coral reefs generates billions of dollars and supports thousands of jobs. The absence of vibrant coral reefs puts all of this at risk.

How to save heat-stressed corals

The loss of all corals due to bleaching is not an inevitable fate, but we must take action now to ensure that future generations can still enjoy these magnificent creatures. Even small daily actions can help mitigate damage to coral reefs, such as reducing fertilizer and stormwater runoff, or refraining from using herbicides and pesticides. However, if we really want to solve the problem of coral bleaching, We must confront the issue of climate change head-on.

This means taking comprehensive and immediate action on a global scale to reduce emissions. To this end, we must actively work to stop deforestation, helping businesses, consumers and cities make the transition. to renewable energy and encouraging governments to adopt climate-smart policies. It is up to each and every one of us to take action today and prevent coral reef bleaching from becoming an irreversible tragedy.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about how to save heat-stressed corals.


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