Global Warming and its Effects on Coral Reefs

Coral has over 2,500 different species. Some create the most vibrant, seemingly unnatural color. These beautiful specimens in fact are not plants, but animals. These creatures are slowing dying off due to climate change and the many effects that follow. When thinking about the health of coral and marine life, these problems are unfortunately heavily overlooked. As global warming occurs, coral starts to bleach, which has much larger effects than most think. When coral begins to bleach, it emits Zooxanthellae, the algae that lives in their tissues, causing the coral to turn completely white. When this happens, the coral becomes soft, shedding off tissue and soon losing its healthy bone-like structure.

A great example of this is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia; currently only 7% of the corals remain unbleached! This is outrageous, especially because the Great Barrier Reef is 500,000 years old. The other 93% of the 2,300km reef is almost completely bleached. For a coral reef to be called a barrier, it must protect the shallow waters from the open sea, which is crucial to the survival of many forms of ocean life. Creatures in the ocean have adapted to the original mostly-stable temperatures, but due to current extreme changes, these creatures are starting to die off. Many species of fish live within, around, or on the corals. As these corals start to die off, they lose their homes and source of nutrition, causing most of their populations to nose dive.  

Coral reefs are important to ocean ecosystems and continued bleaching events from ocean warming and acidification will damage reef-based fisheries and increase exposure to coastlines from waves and storms. It also will damage economies that depend on ecotourism, such as those in Australia and the Caribbean” (CNN). This clearly states that coral reef bleaching is not the only cause of the decline of reefs. The warming causes different precipitation that can lead to storms that interrupt the ocean’s normal currents, bringing warmer or colder water into habitats that are not used to abnormal temperatures.

The world is like a huge chain: when something happens to one thing, it will affect an interminable series of things. If something happens to the earth, it happens to the ocean, it happens to the animals, it happens to us. Global warming is heating the earth, which changes water temperature, which affects the creatures within the ocean, which affects us, because as the ocean goes, so goes life.