In 1983 the first coral bleaching was observed during a strong El Niño. The first worldwide coral bleaching event occurred in 1998, and then again in 2010. The period between 2014 and 2017 was the most prolonged and widespread bleaching event ever recorded. It resulted in the death of approximately two-thirds of the corals in the northern part of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
What causes these bleaching events is the rising temperatures of the ocean brought on by climate change. Rising temperatures put the coral under high amounts of stress, causing it to expel algae, its food. This occurrence leaves the coral vulnerable to disease, stunts growth, affects reproduction, and can result in death.
The world has lost half of its reefs in the last 30 years. This continued loss of coral reef systems worldwide could have a significant negative impact on sea life. For millions of peoples worldwide, this would mean a disruption of their primary food source. This food shortage will create a massive amount of stress on many countries’ economies.
Reef loss is reversible by getting the current climate crisis under control. Reducing carbon pollution could bring down rising global temperatures. Finding a more environmentally friendly way to approach coastal development, fishing, and reducing water pollution would also help.
Many private organizations are taking up the fight for our planet’s coral reefs. These organizations have developed systems of farming and out planting colonies of staghorn and elkhorn reef. One practice is to hang coral from a coral tree in the ocean. It will produce colonies to be out planted in six to nine months. Another method is where alliances have been made between public aquariums and coral scientists to grow coral in a laboratory environment, then integrate it with a natural population.
These worldwide bleaching events will affect everybody if we do not get a handle on them. The death of these reef systems worldwide will result in the death of many other sea creatures. Affecting our food supply chain and causing global economic strife. The effects of these bleaching events are reversible if we get the current climate crisis under control by reducing carbon pollution and practicing more environmentally safe ways of coastal development and fishing. All is not lost yet. We should see to it that future generations get to enjoy these beautiful structures, as we have.