A group of researchers said Friday that unusually high temperatures around Hawaiian islands may result in the worst coral bleaching to date by the end of the year.
The islands’ corals were under a lot of stress lately because of last year’s mass bleaching event. Although the marine creatures are still recovering from that episode, another bleaching may prove fatal to many of them, researchers warn.
Bleaching is caused by several factors but the most frequent cause is unusually warm water. When their environment is too stressful, corals push out the algae living within their tissue and become completely white. Nevertheless, a white coral is not necessarily a dead coral. It can recover and restore its color, but it is also at a higher risk of dying in the process.
So far, there were two major bleaching events in the area – one last year and another one in 1996. But the one to come is expected to be the worst on the record. Scientists based their predictions on temperatures recorded this year. Climate experts said that the region experienced 2 to 6 degrees F warmer temperatures than usual.
Bleaching events can prove deadly to corals especially when they don’t allow reefs to recover. If corals die, marine life in the area will be also threatened since many fish feed and live in coral reefs. Moreover, Hawaii’s tourism will also be affected because many tourists decide to spend time in the islands mostly to admire the stunningly colored reefs.
One of the researchers likened corals’ demise to a city being laid to ruble.
“You go from a vibrant, three-dimensional structure teeming with life, teeming with color, to a flat pavement that’s covered with brown or green algae,”
noted Ruth Gates, the head of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.
In recent years, 30 to 40 percent of reefs died worldwide because of sever bleaching episodes. Hawaii on the other hand was a protected area and the most of its corals quickly bounced back in the wake of recent bleaching events. On the other hand, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology researchers do not know whether the reefs would still stand after two straight bleaching episodes.
Gates explained that you cannot knock a living organism hard once and hit it again quickly and expect for it to recover.
Researchers also recommend people to not make corals’ situation worse especially by using fertilizers and wash their vehicles with soap and let the contaminants reach the ocean. Divers should also do not stress out corals, while anglers should fish responsibly.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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