From Green Right Now Reports
Higher than normal ocean temperatures are wreaking havoc on coral reefs in southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, turning previously color-splashed areas into white wastelands due to a phenomenon known as “coral bleaching.”
“The bleaching is very strong throughout southeast Asia and the central Indian Ocean,” Dr. Mark Eakin, coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch, said. “The reports are that it is the worst since 1997/1998. This is a really huge event and we are going to see a lot of corals dying.”
Bleaching occurs when the algae that give the coral its color and food is lost. Divers and scientists have described huge areas of previously pristine reef turned into barren white undersea landscapes off the coast of Thailand and Indonesia. Reefs in the Caribbean could also be under threat.
The 1998 event saw an estimated 16 per cent of the world’s reefs destroyed. Bleaching also can rob fish and other species of important shelter and food sources.
Although reefs can recover from bleaching, it leaves the coral vulnerable to damage from storms, infections and other environmental stress, increasing the risk of deaths. With ocean temperatures reaching record levels and combined with the end of an El Nino episode, scientists fear there could be even more damage to corals as the year continues.