What Is Coral Bleaching

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Coral reefs are among the most beautiful and important ecosystems on Earth. They cover over 280,000 square kilometers and support over eight hundred species of coral and four thousand species of fish. They are often referred to as the “rainforests of the seas”. Coral reefs are crucial to the ocean and humans as they provide a barrier to coasts from waves and storms. They are also spawning grounds for many species of aquatic life and provide humans with medicine and food. The estimated yearly income provided by the coral reef is around thirty billion dollars (Weeks). Despite the importance of coral reefs, is also estimated that roughly one-fourth of coral reefs are damaged and destroyed beyond repair and another two-thirds are in serious danger …show more content…
The increase in temperature also causes episodes of “coral bleaching.” Coral bleaching is when coral polyps expel microscopic algae that live inside and nourish them. The algae provides the coral’s color, and without it the reef turns white (Weeks). While it is not impossible for the coral to recover, bleaching weakens them and causes them stress that could potentially kill them. Coral bleaching is not a new problem, but in the past,, episodes were smaller and further apart. This gave the reefs time to heal. Since 1998, episodes have become more severe (Globalissues.org). Bleaching has been occurring on a more massive scale and more frequently than ever. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration listed twenty species of coral as threatened under the Endangered Species act. This was caused by a focus on the future impact of global warming and ocean acidification (Johnson). Since coral is now an endangered species, federal agencies must consult the NOAA before they can fund any projects that have the potential to harm the coral reefs. These projects include energy projects, pollution discharge permits, dredging, boat traffic, and military activities (Weeks). If global warming doesn 't slow down or stop entirely, it is believed that coral bleaching will increase in frequency and intensity …show more content…
Coral reefs are delicate ecosystems that rely on a natural balance between the species living in it; over fishing of certain species disrupts this balance. A good example of this is the Parrotfish, brightly colored fish that are often wanted for seawater tanks and exhibits. They are herbivores and feed on algae and seaweed that would overgrow the reefs, slow coral growth, and threaten species that rely on the coral for food and shelter (Johnson). Improper fishing techniques harm the reefs as well. Cyanide fishing not only poisons and stuns fish in the reefs, but the coral as well. Blast, or dynamite, fishing blows up and destroys coral leaving fish no place to hide and therefore easy to catch. Bottom trawling is another form of destructive fishing in which a net is drug along the bottom to trap fish. This tactic also catches coral and rips it up (Globalissues.org). Many of these fishing techniques have been made illegal in coral reefs, but they still

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