In South Florida, the Atlantic Ocean has warmed more than 30 degrees – with catastrophic consequences for underwater flora and fauna. Experts fear severe coral bleaching.
Gray and dull instead of bright and colorful. This is what many coral reefs off the coast of the US state of Florida currently look like. “We’re going to have to deal with bad bleaching,” Leif Williamson, a scientist at the University of Miami’s Coral Reef Futures Lab, told the Associated Press.
There is a 90 percent chance of major bleaching occurring on many coral reefs along Pacific islands from the equator to Florida. “It’s only in July that the heat will continue to build and corals will have to acclimate to dangerously hot conditions for much longer than normal,” Williamson said. “We have already received reports of bleaching from Belize, which is very concerning this early summer.”
This was also confirmed by biologist Christian Voelstra from the University of Constance. “Actually, with corals, it’s more like twenty-five minutes and five to twelve,” said Voelstra. Tagesshaw 24 – and warned about the effect of habituation: “If we now watch how he essentially dies under our hands, then, of course, next time it will be easier to watch calmly.”
The critical factor is the duration of the thermal phase
Global sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and the southwestern Atlantic have reached a record high since April of more than 30 degrees Celsius. According to scientists, the reasons are climate change and the El Niño weather phenomenon.
Rising temperatures, Voolstra explained, is a problem for corals: They live in symbiosis with microalgae, which photosynthesize and provide nutrients to the corals. If the water temperature is higher than normal in the area for a longer period of time, the microalgae can lose their ability to photosynthesize and degrade the coral. Bleaching occurs: the coral lives, but loses its colour.
In principle, corals can recover from bleaching. According to scientist Voolstra, the duration of the warm phase is crucial: “If this heat lasts longer, the algae will not return, which ultimately starves the corals, in the true sense of the word.” .
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