CORAL REEF BLEACHING
Since the 1970 and 1980, a strong correlation existed between the increase water temperature and coral bleaching. These data were based on the El Nino that raised the water temperature of the Pacific near Tahiti resulting in over 500 kilometres of reefs that have been bleached. Similar results were observed for the reefs near the Caribbean Islands but on a lesser scale. During the mentioned above years the El Nino-effect raised the sea surface temperature with 4°C above normal, but global warming pose are far greater problem, as the El Nino occurs approximately every ten years, while global warming will kind of give a permanent increase of temperature (Union of Concerned Scientists 2005). Thus it is possible to associate coral bleaching to increase sea surface temperature due to global warming caused by anthropogenic activities.
Global warming will provide coral reefs with plenty of stress. Apart from the increase of temperature on the surface of the sea, humans will always increase their resources due to the ever increasing human population.
Thus mass bleaching events will become more frequent and widespread. Increasing human stresses such as pollution, overfishing, soil erosion, and physical damage from boats and other recreational activities will also weaken corals (Union of Concerned Scientists 2005, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs 1999). The time for coral to regenerate take several decades and the stresses mention above, will slow down their adaptation to the most important change, that of climate change.
Coral bleaching is not just an isolated case, but it is happening all over the ocean within the suitable climatic regions (tropical, warm temperatures), and several coral reefs in 60 countries in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Mediterranean and Caribbean have been reported. It is appearing not only at shallow depth but also deeper down (Union of Concerned Scientists 2005).
Furthermore, as ocean warming coincides with sea-level rise and perhaps more frequent tropical storms and El Ninos, reefs are likely to experience greater coastal erosion, sedimentation, and turbidity, which would add to their demise.
Union of Concerned Scientists. Climate change: Early Warning Signs- Coral Bleaching; 2005 October. [Cited 2006 Aug 10]. Available from: http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science/early-warning-signs-of-global-warming-coral-reef-bleaching.html
Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. Coral Bleaching, Coral Mortality, and Global Climate Change; 1999 March. [Cited 2006 Aug 10]. Available from: http://yosemite.epa.gov/oar/globalwarming.nsf/content/ImpactsFisheries.html
Merle J. South Pacific Climate Variability and its Impact on Low-Lying Islands;
Date Unknown; [Cited 2006 Aug 10]. Available from: http://www.unesco.org.uy/phi/libros/enso/merle.html
Buddemeier RW & Fautin DG. 1993. Coral Bleaching as an Adaptive Mechanism: A testable hypothesis. Bioscience 43 (5): 320-326.
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