- Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their colour.
- When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white. This is called coral bleaching.
- Algae are vital to the coral. Corals use the organic products of photosynthesis produced by algae to help it grow.
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- The loss of algae makes the host vulnerable to disease and means it will eventually die.
- However, coral can recover if the water temperature drops and the algae are able to re-colonise them.
- When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but if they are subject to more stress, they can eventually die.
- Environmentalists blame the burning of fossil fuels for global warming.
- Farm run-off which is rich in fertilizers and other chemicals.
- Development activities.
- The coral-eating starfish
- Disease outbreaks
The Need To Preserve Corals:
- To protect coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms
- To provide habitats and shelter for many marine organisms
- Corals are the source of nitrogen and other essential nutrients for marine food chains
- They assist in carbon and nitrogen fixing
- They also help with nutrient recycling.
- The fishing industry depends on coral reefs because many fish spawn there and juvenile fish spend time there before making their way to the open sea
- The Great Barrier Reef are also important for the economy and tourism.
- The study of coral reefs is important for providing a clear, scientifically-testable record of climatic events over the past million years or so. This includes records of recent major storms and human impacts that are recorded by the changes in coral growth patterns.