Climatic change has been affecting our corals quite a bit. One of those negative effects has been coral bleaching. There are certain things that divers can do to help our coral reefs and the best place to begin is with some education on the threats that face them.
Corals are living organisms and are very sensitive to their environment. If things are out of the norm, they experience great stress. If the water around the coral rises or falls below the optimal range which is between 20°C and 32°C (68°F and 89°F) or if there is disease, sedimentation, pollution, a touch from someone, this can lead to great stress for these corals.
What is Coral Bleaching?
The colors that coral is known for come from the relationship they have with Zooxanthellae, a photosynthetic algae that lives inside its tissues. It is this algae that gives it the rich colors and also provides as much as 80% of the nutrition that coral needs to survive. If the environment becomes stressful or too hot, the zooxanthellae are expelled by the coral, leaving the coral polyp transparent so that its white skeleton, made of calcium carbonate, is visible. This is what coral bleaching is.
What You Can Do:
There are two major ways that you can help:
- Don’t exacerbate the problem – There are many stressors including damage done by divers, sunscreen used and anchors among others. If it has to deal with these stressors as well, the coral has very little or no energy or resilience to deal with bigger problems. In order to protect coral, make sure that your behavior when diving has very little impact. Don’t kick or touch anything underwater and make sure the operators you settle on have sustainable practices.
- Become a ‘citizen scientist’ – Be sure to report any bleaching that you see to one of the following places:
- Reef Check Malaysia – They are collecting data on coral bleaching in order to mobilize teams to areas that have been badly affected
- NOAA – They have a survey that is comprehensive and clear which you can fill from any part of the world. Green Fins Thailand – They are working together with Phuket Marine Biological Center and are already calling for people with reports.
The threat of coral bleaching is very significant right now and it is important to have all hands on deck. You can make a difference with these things albeit a small one. But if everyone puts in more effort, the impact will be huge.