A the reefs, so when they are gone,

A new study by Science magazine reveals that the amount of time that coral reefs have to recover from bleaching episodes (expulsion of toxic algae) is decreasing. This is a result of unusually warm water appearing more frequently than in previous years. In the 1980s, coral reefs would have about thirty years to cope, but now, irregularly warm water appears about every six years. This significantly impacts the corals themselves as well as marine and human life. There are, however, actions that we as a planet can take to prevent the extinction of coral reefs. When stressors, like abnormally hot water, present themselves, they disrupt the symbiotic algae in the coral reefs’ tissues. This makes that algae toxic, forcing the reefs to expel them leaving the reefs bare with their white skeletons, therefore, it is referred to as bleaching. While this process rids the reef of toxic algae, it also has severely negative impacts not only on the coral reef population, but also on sea and human life. The algae that reefs expel are responsible for protecting and feeding the reefs, so when they are gone, corals often starve to death. Rotting algae in the water causes it to smell and fish to flee. Marine species rely on coral reefs to aid in some part of their life cycle and upwards of 500 million people depend on corals fishing income or food. A larger amount of people need coral reefs to protect the shorelines from erosion and develop the tourism industry. Bleaching has caused the death of 66% of the corals in a stretch of the northern Great Barrier Reef as well as 90% of the corals in Christmas Island. Atypically high temperatures worsen mass bleachings by heating the water that disrupts algae. Certain human activities have long-term impacts on climate. They can alter the norm for temperature as well as cause temperature spikes that influence the severity of the bleachings. Lack of care about these ecosystems as well as the continuation of harmful human activities could result in the extinction of coral reefs.Although we have a couple of decades to save the coral reef population, action must be taken now to prevent extinction. A reduction in the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is a start. Since these gases absorb and re-emit heat, they warm the Earth’s surface and therefore warm the water, causing bleaching. Additionally, overfishing damages coral reefs so it must be regulated as well. Governments can do more to help by investing in coral nurseries or even breeding super corals that are heat resistant. The recent actions by the Trump Administration regarding climate change, such as planning on pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement and ending the Clean Power Plan, are a step back from protecting the coral reef population. We need to do everything we can to prevent bleaching and save coral reefs.Coral reefs have less time to recover from bleaching episodes (expulsion of toxic algae) than in previous years due to the more frequent appearance of unusually warm water. This decline can lead to coral death, lower quality sea life, less food, and a decrease in profit from fish. If we begin to make the right choices to reduce climate change, we have a shot at protecting the coral reefs so they can continue to help and protect us.


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