Recent global Coral bleaching has put the lives of reefs of Western Australia in danger. Researchers from The University of Western Australia, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and Western Australian Marine Science Institution examined the impact of the 2016 mass bleaching event on reefs in Western Australia. They found that up to 80 percent of coral reefs in parts of Western Australia’s Kimberley region were severely affected by recent global bleaching which was quite surprising because the Kimberly corals are well known for their exceptional stress resistant capability and can withstand rising sea temperatures.

Actually, bleaching occurs when a hike in sea temperature puts coral under stress. As a result, the corals expel the tiny photosynthetic algae responsible for its mesmerizing colors, and hence they turn bone white. Scientists informed that the stressed coral reefs facing bleaching struggle for food and suffer from the disease but they can recover of the temperature drops. But this is not the case with Kimberly corals which got severely damaged in the 2016 mass bleaching. The 2016 mass bleaching event is the most severe global bleaching event ever to be recorded.

Lead researcher Verena Schoepf said that this was the first documented regional-scale bleaching event in WA during an El Nino year and the first time they were able to measure the percentage of impacted corals. El Nino is defined as the natural warming of the central Pacific which impacts global weather, and La Nina is the cooling of the of the oceans. Dr. Schoepft further said that Coral reefs in WA are now at risk of bleaching during both El Nino and La Nina years as different reefs are affected depending on their geography. For example, The Ningaloo Reef was severely damaged on between the year 2010 to 2011. But it remained unharmed in the 2016 mass bleaching event.

Researchers believe that the rapid increase in the frequency of bleaching in recent years is caused due to the increase in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Dr. Schoepft told that it has become extremely important to monitor bleaching events to see how coral is affected and how long it takes to recover because coral reefs are the lifeline of marine life and also a centre of attraction for tourists.

 

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