Most marine biologists believe that the mass coral bleaching events occurring over the past two decades are a result of stress caused by warming waters globally. Coral expel their symbiotic algae, turn white, and die, and as a result the small creatures that feed on it and hide within it must leave or die too. A team of researchers studying an area in the Indian Ocean that had a bleaching event has discovered that there is a greater homogenization of species there. The smaller species that lived within coral have been overrun with larger herbivore species that feed off of algae from dead coral. The mass death of coral communities is a problem if we value the diversity of species and delicate ecosystems that are intertwined with them.
Coral bleaching is essentially coral dying. The living coral is the foundation of the food cycle that we humans – and every other living species – is a part of. Coral reefs occupy less than one percent of all the oceans and yet are home to over 25% of all fish species. They are vastly important to marine life and therefore to human life – since we humans depend on both the fish itself and the wildlife that feeds on the fish (that feeds on the coral) for food, the deterioration of coral around the world (bleaching) affects our very way of life!
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