Events of coral bleaching have been reported happening around Hawaii due to the increase of water temperature. According to experts, if the water temperature won't decline, this will lead to the worst coral bleaching in years.
Coral reefs along the island are still recovering from coral bleaching last year. Experts added that this year's anticipated coral bleaching may be close to the last recorded coral bleaching event that led to a mass coral bleaching.
The temperature of the ocean in Hawaii is currently three to six degrees Fahrenheit (-16 to -14 degrees Celsius) hotter than the ideal temperature. Bleaching may eventually lead to corals dying, which in turn will affect marine life and the animals and species that depend on coral reefs for shelter. Hawaii's economy, which largely depends tourism because of the beautiful coral reefs, will also be affected.
"You go from a vibrant, three-dimensional structure teeming with life, teeming with color, to a flat pavement that's covered with brown or green algae," said Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology director Ruth Gates. She added that because of severe bleaching, the reality is, as she described it, a "doom-and-gloom outcome."
Scientists had gone out on an expedition look at the gravity of the span of bleaching around Hawaii has become. They went to an area mostly uninhabited in the island's far north-eastern end, and found the coral there dead from last year's coral bleaching incident. According to Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology researcher Courtney Couch, reef covering a mile and a half along the eastern side of Lisianski Island is essentially dead, explaining that the warming temperatures are handled by coral further out from the atoll.
The reason why corals are bleaching is because of the hot water temperature causing the single celled algae called zooxanthellae that live on the tissues of corals to be expelled. These algae have a symbiotic relationship with the coral - the algae serves as the coral's food. In return the corals provide shelter for the algae's. Hence, if the algae are expelled from the corals, they will starve and eventually die as well.
Hawaii authorities are asking for help from the people to report coral bleaching sightings and also to avoid fertilizing their lawns and using too much soap so that chemicals won't flow into the ocean.
Photo: David Burdick (NOAA) | Flickr