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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Requiem for a Reef

Requiem for a Reef

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Wednesday, June 8, 2016/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, marine life, sustainability, environment, climate change

       Coral Bleaching in The Maldives, June 2016  (credit: The Ocean Agency and Catlin Seaview Survey)

Along with many of the world's coral reef ecosystems Australia's Great Barrier Reef, a designated UN World Heritage site, is in big trouble. A "perfect storm" from increased ocean temperatures and multiplied by a strong el nino weather pattern has created a major coral bleaching event.

Bleaching occurs when the symbiosis between coral polyps and their blue-green algae partners disassociate leaving behind a ghostly white skeleton. Researchers from James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science have estimated that over 90% of the Great Barrier Reef has experienced some bleaching while more than 20% of the reef’s coral has been killed by the exceptionally warm waters. One of the University's researchers offered this perspective:  

Coral bleaching has now extened to the reefs along Western Australia's coast and to the Indian Ocean island nation of the Maldives, one of the most popular diving destinations anywhere. The result is much the same as seen on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland.

The Ocean Agency, an environmental organization founded in 2010 by a group of former advertising managers, has attempted to bring this situation and other marine issues to a wider audience through their photography and advocacy work. In reflecting on the bleaching Richard Vevers, the organization's founder, said the view on the reefs was both haunting and disgusting to see.

Only time will tell if the surviving reefs will recover or if more heat-tolerent corals will emerge to populate the underwater ecosystem known as the "rainforests of the oceans". There is some evidence that if the stress is reduced or eliminated, corals can recover.

However, it may be time to start composing a requiem but this is music that won't be popular for any concert hall audience.



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