Even though coral reefs make up less than one percent of marine ecosystems, they are of major importance to our planet. Reefs contain some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth and protect coastlines from extreme waves and storms. Because coral reefs provide habitats for 25 percent of marine species, they provide revenue for fishing industries and local communities.
Unfortunately, coral reefs are not doing so well. Industrial waste pollutes the water, overfishing messes with the balance of ecological systems and global warming causes a rise in sea temperatures and increases the water’s acidity.
When corals are stressed by changes in conditions such as a rise in water temperature, a decrease in light or when they get less nutrients, corals start to turn white; a process that is called ‘coral bleaching’.
How does it work?
Corals get their colors from algae that live in their tissues. These algae provide food for the corals when they produce carbohydrates during photosynthesis. When the water around the corals gets too hot, this relationship with the algae changes. The tiny algae are expelled from the corals, causing them to turn white. If these algae aren’t reabsorbed in the near term, the coral will die. Corals can’t survive long-term without them.
What can you do?
You can help combat coral bleaching by reducing your carbon footprint. This keeps greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere, which helps decrease climate change and maintain constant ocean temperatures. Maintaining awareness is key. In everything, keep a conscious mind.