“What’s the day today?” asked Favite, a coral who lives in the Great Barrier Reef.
“Its 23 April” replied Cynarina another coral living there.
“Yes! My birthday! the 1000th one” Cynarina replied frivolously. “Well, this might be your last birthday then. I guess most of us won’t be here to see you becoming 10,001 and your youth which is full of these bright blue and pink colours would soon fade away. You will look like my dead uncle who is now covered all in white”
This came as a thunder to Favite, but she knew that her words might be true. If the water temperatures keep on increasing, the entire colony might just get extinct.
Favite’s sister overheard this conversation. She is small and dumb and she started pouring out questions to Favite, asking what the problem was and will she be able to celebrate her birthday.
“You see dear”, said Favite, “The bright colours which we are wearing are not ours. They are from the algae, which live in our tissue and provide us with carbohydrates, which they make during photosynthesis. And if the temperature of the seas keeps on rising, they will leave our tissue and take with themselves these beautiful bright colours making us look white, just like Cynarina’s dead uncle.”
Well we can make out from this small conversation, what these sisters might be feeling, but then how is temperature related to algae’s ejection?
Temperature increases of only 1.5 –2°C lasting for six to eight weeks are enough to trigger bleaching within these corals but when high temperatures persist for more than eight weeks, the coral’s symbiotic algae produce highly corrosive radicals within the coral. That damages the photosynthesis system of the algae. Thus the coral can’t prevent the division of the algae cells – that leads to an even higher carbon production, to be diverted into the algae rather than the coral. Due to this imbalance the coral expels the algae. Moreover, temperature is not the only reason affecting her colonies but other factors were also equally responsible.
Temperature increases of only 1.5 –2°C lasting for six to eight weeks are enough to trigger Coral Bleaching.
First being Xenobiotics.
It is a foreign chemical substance found within an organism that is not normally naturally produced by or expected to be present within that organism. It can also cover substances, which are present in much higher concentrations than are usual.
High concentrations of xenobiotics are required to induce zooxanthellae loss, coral bleaching from such sources is usually extremely localised or transitory.
The second factor: Solar Radiation.
According to research conducted by Department of Marine Sciences and Coastal Management, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK Solar radiation has been suspected to play a role in coral bleaching. Both photo synthetically active radiation (PAR, 400-700nm) and ultraviolet radiation (UR, 280-400nm) have been implicated in bleaching.
The third factor: Excessive Phosphorus Concentrations.
According to a research conduced by Oregon State University USA, Excessive phosphorus concentration results in coral colonies with weakened skeletons, which make colonies more susceptible to damage from storm action. Elevated nutrients can inhibit fertilisation rates and embryo formation of corals, as well as causing direct coral mortality.
We were deep diving in the coral reef area for a little fun but got illuminated by the corals Favite and Cynarina on the problems, which she and her colony members are facing.
We really should do something to help them retain their colours.
As we know the threat is global and is not restricted to one nation, so taking steps, which can be formulated globally, is important. Like deforestation, it is considered to be a major threat, why not plant more trees? This will greatly reduce the effect of oceanic acidification.
With increasing number of industries, the waste is majorly dumped into rivers, seas etc. According to a study by NOAA, wherein due to the movements of oceanic current the garbage tends to accumulate at one or more places forming ‘garbage patch’, like Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a gyre of marine debris particles in the central North Pacific Ocean located roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N and 42°N.
With increasing number of industries, the waste is majorly dumped into rivers, seas etc. Due to the movements of oceanic current, the garbage tends to accumulate at one or more places forming ‘Garbage Patch’.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is characterised by exceptionally high relative concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. Also the global value of Coral reefs is estimated to be between US $29.8 billion and $375 billion per year that is a HUGE amount!
Can we let this tourism industry go away so easily? Overfishing being another factor wherein the entire food web is affected. If too many herbivorous fish are taken, macro algae (seaweed) can overgrow and suffocate reefs. Turning the area where corals are in abundance into Marine Protected Areas, this will prevent coral mining and would also solve the problem of overfishing, moreover this would enhance the marine life, like the Great Barrier Reef comes under Marine Protected Areas and it has shown considerable improvement .
Not buying any jewellery or item made up of corals or for that matter made up from any animal that once lived in seas, would be the easiest step which all of us can take and advocate others about it.
Not buying any jewellery or item made up of corals, would be the easiest step which all of us can take and advocate others about it.
A little effort from our side would help Favite and Cynarina and millions of corals like them, to retain their magnificent colors. Let’s see them grow 10,001 years old. Why not we start today?
By Anoushka Jha
Anoushka is a second year student of History at Kamala Nehru College New Delhi. An art lover at heart, she loves to draw and put her vivid imaginations on paper. Anoushka joined Earth5R to explore the world of writing as well as make people aware about their surroundings and the little they can do to breath in the fresh air of our mother nature.