What is Coral Bleaching?

What is Coral Bleaching? 

Corals exist due to an amazing relationship (symbiotic) between Animal (Coral) and Plant (Zooxanthellae). However, when Corals encounter stress due to disruptions from the environment a phenomenon known as Coral Bleaching can occur. Bleaching is apparent when Corals turn a bright white, essentially revealing there skeletons due to a loss of Zooxanthellae. Disruptions in the environment can come in several forms, with the primary being exposure to abnormally high water temperatures over periods of time. Extreme Stress causes the Coral to expel the Zooxanthellae, which provide over 90% of the nutrition needed by Coral, via photosynthesis. This causes the Corals metabolism to shut down and for them to pale in colour. 

However, not all is lost. 

Dependent on the exposure time to high temperatures and other disruptors, Corals are able to regain there vibrant colours and repopulate with zooxanthellae once temperatures start to cool. Unfortunately though, bleaching will have affected their immune systems and therefore leave them open to disease and vulnerable to additional stressors such as solar ultraviolet radiation (sun rays). 

Why are Coral reefs important?

Coral reefs contain the most diverse eco-system on the entire planet,

Coral reefs are home to 25% of ALL Marine species. 

Over 500 million people rely on reefs for food
Coral reefs are being used to source new medicines for Cancer and Alzheimers
Coral reefs are our mainline defence for tropical storms, Tsunamis and hurricanes 

Coral reefs have been estimated to generate $29.8 billion/year in Ecosystem services (including tourism). 

How can you help?

1. Don’t touch Coral!

2. Report signs of Coral Bleaching through the DOE Coral Watch programme

3. Use Ocean friendly Sunscreen

4. Use Re-usable water bottles instead of buying water 

5. Bring cutlery to work instead of using plastic cutlery

6. Participate in Beach clean-ups

7. Renewable energies. We live in one the best places in the world for wind, solar and wave
    power-lets use it!

8. Demand change – Force companies to look at there carbon footprint E.G. Plastic to paper straws

The Ocean is our greatest life support system. Every second breathe we take comes from the Ocean. Our dependency is non-negotiable and absolute. 

Grand Cayman

The Cayman Islands offer 365 dive sites, one for every day of the year, and it is therefore a huge destination for diving and snorkelling – which is why its vital that we protect our Reefs.

Since 1980 Grand Caymans live Coral coverage has deteriorated from 30-50% to 10-30%, primarily down to bleaching events, hurricanes and Disease. 

In September 2017 the Cayman Islands Department of Environment (DOE) reported a new Coral bleaching event in the Cayman Islands. All three Islands (Cayman Brac, Little Cayman, Grand Cayman) are being monitored for the intensity of Bleaching and how wide spread it has become. 

An especially startling find was of Coral bleaching happening up to depths of 50 metres on Andres reef, located on the North coast of Grand Cayman.

Sad but True…

80% of Corals in the Caribbean have been lost due to natural disasters and climate change (Bleaching, Ocean Acidification).

50% of reefs globally have died in the last 30 years.

Coral bleaching is predicted to happen every year on 99% of Coral reefs within this Century 

Scientists expect that more than 90 percent of corals will die by 2050

93% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases is absorbed by the oceans

Less than 6% of our oceans are protected around the world.


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