When we imagine a coral reef, we normally picture large clusters of colours growing from the seabed. That is what they are supposed to look like, but due to climate change, coral reef bleaching is occurring in many coral reefs worldwide.
Why are coral reefs important?
A few species of carnivorous fish live and feed off the coral reefs. Other species of fish find them perfect as homes and as a place where to lay their eggs. This keeps the reef nice and healthy. These fish attract hungry sharks that help to maintain the population of fish and every organism supports another. So, coral reefs provide help for many creatures and organisms that are important for our oceans.
What is coral reef bleaching?
This process bleaches, or discolours, the bright coral reefs. This happens due to our warming oceans. When coral reefs feel the drastic change of temperatures, they release symbiotic algae. This is an organism that lives inside the coral reef. Symbiotic algae are responsible for colouring the coral and collecting nutrients that are required for it to grow.
What happens after a coral reef is bleached?
The coral reef loses its beautiful diversity of colours, that is so unique in the natural world. As it loses symbiotic algae, it is very weak and mortal because it doesn’t have a source of energy. Severe cases of bleaching may also kill them. Then the fish find no safe place to lay their eggs, and the carnivorous species have nothing to feed on. The sharks find no food and are forced to go out further and further from their natural habitat.
How does this affect humans?
Coral reefs attract many divers each year to marvel at their beauty. Due to the bleaching, less people are interesting themselves by nature and by our oceans. So, less people understand how severe climate change is. We are losing many species of animals because of this, and our oceans are being slowly killed. Sharks are forced to come closer to beaches where people swim, and turtles are starving. We are deeply affecting our planet, our only home, and generations to come won’t have the opportunity to enjoy the biodiversity on this planet.
Now it’s your choice. It all starts by you.
Julia Spiteri St.Matthew