DISCUSSION: As global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels rise, every ecosystem on our planet feels the effects from it. Over much of the planet, winters are getting warmer, weather events are becoming more frequent and harsh, dry places are becoming drier, and wet places are becoming wetter. The rapid change in ecosystems ultimately leaves a strained impact on the delicate balance on life, and affects us all. One of the less commonly talked about ecological changes is under the ocean, where coral reefs are dying, and in turn leaving thousands of species of marine life to wither away.
Coral bleaching, also referred to as coral whitening, occurs when algae leave the tissue of corals, leaving them white in appearance and vulnerable. With higher carbon dioxide levels entering our atmosphere, thanks to anthropogenic reasons, much of it gets absorbed into the oceans. This changes the chemistry of the oceans and ultimately makes it warmer and stressful. The algae leave due to these stressed conditions. At this point, the vulnerable coral are not dead, but have little chance to recover and will die if temperatures are not brought down to equilibrium.
One area where bleaching is prominent is the Coral Triangle, a triangular area of the tropical marine waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste that contain at least 500 species of reef-building corals. The image above details areas where coral reefs are being threatened. About 95% of these reefs are at risk of bleaching. The amount of life these corals hold are enormous, and without the shelter of the reefs, they will certainly die, disrupting the food chain and the lives of people around the world.
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©2018 Meteorologist David Tedesco