Coral reefs are the rainforests of the ocean, a scientist says, and the destruction of these underwater rainforests will be harmful to the Earth's ocean floor and its marine inhabitants. Recently, record ocean temperatures across Hawaii extending to the Caribbean have caused the third global coral bleaching event on the Earth's oceanic floor.

When oceans continue to absorb the extra heat that is caused by global warming, it results to coral bleaching. The phenomenon causes coral reefs to expel the algae in their tissues and turn completely white. These coral reefs are still alive, but they are under extreme stress. If not prevented, they will eventually die.

Scientists have proposed various methods that will help save the coral reefs.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Australia, suggested that the best way to avert coral bleaching is to focus on the factors that cause corals to become stressed. These factors include overfishing and pollution.

"If you've got a chronic disease, then you are more sensitive to a lot of other things and if you want a recovery then you need to take all those other stresses off," he said.

Regarding international relations, Mark Eakin, the coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Watch, said that a strong international climate agreement will come out of the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Paris this December.

Other scientists focus their efforts on satellite monitoring technology to record the stages of the bleaching process.

Underwater Earth, together with the University of Queensland, initiated a scientific expedition called the XL Catlin Seaview Survey. The project team uses a specially-built Seaview SVII underwater camera system to capture high-resolution, 360-degree underwater images in an area of up to 1.2 miles.

Richard Vevers, executive director of the XL Catlin Seaview Survey, explained that the technology can help map where the bleaching is occurring. It can also determine the impact of coral bleaching to the oceans.

Vevers described that once these coral reefs were removed, the phenomenon is similar to the removal of underwater rainforests.

Meanwhile, scientists say that bleaching events are not only caused by warm water. In the Florida Keys, cold water temperatures caused coral bleaching, resulting in the death of many coral reefs five years ago.

Furthermore, scientists hope to determine whether cold water can make coral reefs more susceptible to death or disease in the same way that warm water affects them.

Photo : NOAA's National Ocean Service | Flickr

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