Coral reefs have suffered from an event that is called bleaching in 1998 and 2002 in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Researchers anticipate the future death of massive oceanic biomes in other regions as the ocean’s temperatures continue to rise.
Based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. reefs are likely to face significant destruction.
“This is the most widespread, longest coral bleaching event ever to occur,” claims NOAA administrator Mark Eakin.
Coral bleaching is an event that is precipitated when algae vacates its coral habitat as a result of warm ocean water. The consequence of the algae exodus is the absence of coral’s colorful hue, which results in ghostly white structures and eventual death.
The Australian coastline is a cautionary tale of the impact of warm ocean temperatures and coral bleaching. According to Australian marine data, 93 percent of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is essentially dead.
NOAA researchers have claim that reefs surrounding Palau and Micronesia risk a loss of 90 percent as a result of bleaching. Reefs that surround the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii and Guam have a high risk of being negatively impacted from bleaching.
Over 70 percent of U.S. reefs have experienced dangerously high temperatures that can lead to coral bleaching.
Researchers have associated coral bleaching with climate change. Data shows that human activity has caused the warming of global oceans, which has caused elevated sea levels and melting ice sheets.
Rising temperatures due to climate change have pushed corals beyond their tolerance levels, says Ove Hoegh-Guldberg – director of Australia’s Global Change Institute.
Research has shown that coral can bounce back from bleaching if water temperatures return to normal levels; however, scientists warn that continuous years of bleaching can have irreparable harm for coral and for species that inhabit coral structures.
The current condition of coral reefs is a sign of planetary health and a call for climate change.
NOAA’s coral reef preservation director, Jennifer Koss, said “ coral is the bellwether for the changes that are occurring in our oceans. If you think of coral as the canary, they’re chirping really loudly right now.