It depends on the coral reef and the conditions present. Coral bleaching is caused by an absence of a protozoa called zooxanthellae, which can be expelled by coral under stress conditions. Temperature increase is the most common stressor, which is why coral reefs are especially susceptible to global warming. Unfortunately, bleaching often continues even after the stress is removed–it can take weeks or even months for the zooxanthellae to return normally. In some cases if the stress (i.e., temperature increase) is prolonged, the coral may die entirely. Like any ecosystem a coral reef has the potential to regenerate and rebound from a catastrophic event, but as coral reefs are so delicate and so sensitive to temperature changes, they are among the first and most widespread casualties of climate change.
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