The sea remains largely undiscovered by humans, yet we have observed the happenings that occurred beneath the waves for thousands of years. We are familiar with the large mammals and fish that roam the waters as we are with anything that comes close enough for us to explore. Coral reefs are one of the great foundations of the ocean that we have enjoyed over and over again. Favourite submarine critters such as starfish and crabs commonly live here as do famous fish like the clownfish made unforgettable by the early scenes in Disney’s Finding Nemo, where life on the coral is an idyllic community of creatures. But the corals are quickly becoming far from a perfect home as all around the globe they are becoming ill and turning white.
What Is Bleaching?
Coral bleaching has been observed for a while but what is most alarming is the increased rate at which it is occurring. Although they look like some sort of fish décor, corals are living organisms and ones that have a symbiotic relationship with the algae that settles upon them. This algae gives them food and therefore energy and is the reason why they are full of living colour. Bleached corals have no algae and therefore have no colour. This bleached effect means that the coral is out of fuel, low on energy and is on the fast track to starving to death. It also means that the life that usually exists in and around it will leave and possibly also expire.
Impact on Sea Life
Though corals only make up a tiny percentage of the total area of the ocean, they provide and sustain a healthy habitat for over 25% of the life in the sea. Coral bleaching doesn’t just mean that corals are dying, it means that sea life is drastically suffering too. The rate of coral bleaching in the last 30 years has been unprecedented with, bleaching events occurring globally faster and more widespread than before. The population of fish, crustaceans and microbiological life that flourishes on corals is diminishing at a rate we cannot account for and one we must heal. Corals are the so-called rainforests of the sea, and we can already see what effect deforestation does to species who life there.
It is no question that the reason the corals are bleaching so rapidly is because of our interference with the natural order of things. Our fossil fuels have caused global warming which has in turn raised the temperature of the sea, which is a significant factor in coral bleaching. The use of chemicals, over fishing and general pollution have also led to this which is why we must do what we can to see that it doesn’t continue. Scientists are working tirelessly to find ways to rejuvenate the bleached corals and make healthy ones more resistant to change. However we must drastically change our lifestyles in order to reverse the effects we have had on the globe. If the coral bleaching continues as it is, soon there will be no fish, no food and no healthy water surrounding our planet.