There just doesn't seem to be an end to the devastating news about our natural world these days. A recent New York Times article illuminates some of the worst coral bleaching the world has ever seen, putting the world's marine ecosystems in imminent peril. Coral reefs are vital to ocean life, providing shelter and sustenance to a quarter of all marine species, subsequently feeding more than a billion people worldwide. The bleaching of the reefs occurs when high heat and sunlight cause the metabolism of the algae (which give coral reefs their brilliant color and energy) to spin out of control and create toxins. A bleached reef can almost appear to be covered in snow.
If the heat continues, the algae is destroyed and the coral reefs literally starve to death (as will the marine life that depend on the reefs). The largest amount bleaching has been found at Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the worldwide bleaching is a direct result of climate change, rising ocean temperatures, and extreme weather patterns such as El Nino. Scientists say that corals can survive a bleaching, but repeated bleachings can kill the reefs forever. And with El Nino predicted to continue for at least the next nine months, scientists have no way of knowing the true lengths of the bleaching destruction to come. The reefs may be irreversibly changed or destroyed forever. As a human race, we are all complicit in the destruction of our natural world and it is of crucial importance that we make the changes necessary to save our planet.