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Oceanography

Why is coral bleaching bad?

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March 31, 2010 7:53PM

coral bleaching is the loss of symbiotic 'algae' known as zooxanthellae (actually, they're dinoflagellates) in stressful environmental conditions, such as warmer than normal water temperatures and UV stress from the sun, or even pollutants. These 'algae' provide the coral with 90% of it's nutrition which it uses for growth and reproduction. If the corals are unable to regain their zooxanthellae, they will slowly starve and lose the ability to compete with other organisms for space on the reef. Algae frequently overgrow the weakened corals which subsequently die. Some corals, such as plating corals, have fragile skeletons and crumble into rubble when the coral dies. If a coral is not growing, it is eroding by ocean processes, and loses the complex structure that provided a home for all of the other reef organisims. No reef, no fish.