Bleached coral reef

What is Coral Bleaching and what can I do about it?


How does coral bleaching happen?

Corals are naturally colourful and bright for a reason, and is that they have a microscopic algae called zooxanthellae living within the coral. This microscopic algae and the coral help each other to survive, so the coral needs the algae. When the ocean conditions change, like the rise in sea temperatures due to climate change, the coral are stressed and expel the algae.

With sea temperatures on the rise the coral don’t let the algae back in, and loses the colour, eventually dying.

There are different reasons why coral bleaching is at the highest ever recorded, the main one attributed to climate change and increase in temperature. An increase of only 2 degrees fahrenheit can already push the coral to expuls the algae. Other factors have a large harmful impact on the coral like pollution, lack or excess of sunlight and extreme change in tides.

What is the impact of coral bleaching?

Coral bleaching has an impact on both the planet and humans. Some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on earth depend on coral reefs to provide shelter, spawning grounds, protection from predators and food for species like turtles, crabs, jellyfish, starfish and thousands of other marine life facing extinction as coral reefs around the world bleach and die.

Large Coral Reef bleached and dying

Coral bleaching also has a negative impact on communities around the world that depend on the ecosystem that coral reefs sustain. Without the natural barrier that coral reefs provide in the event of storms and waves communities living in the coast are at risk of geographical displacement. The alternative being expensive and environmentally damaging concrete seawalls. Coral also provides an income to thousands of families around the world that work on marine life tourism and conservation as well as put millions of people in danger of food insecurity as their main source of protein decreases rapidly due to ecosystem loss from coral bleaching.

Group of activists girls protesting for climate change

How can do to help stop coral bleaching?

We depend on coral but coral reefs around the world will not be able to save themselves this time, we need to act all together to change the course of coral bleaching:

- Demand your government to take climate change seriously and prioritize it to secure the health of our planet and future generations.

- Demand transparency and change from your local council to ensure that your community is being taken care of and that your surroundings are being protected for future generations.

- Hold companies responsible for their business activities. Ask them to disclose their environmental impact, social initiatives and the sustainability of their supply chain. Ensure they use your money in a way that doesn’t harm you, the environment and future generations.

- Avoid herbicides and pesticides and look for natural solutions that are as effective and don’t cost the planet.

- Avoid ocean pollution. Most Sunscreens for example contain oxybenzone which is a main cause of coral bleaching and dying marine life. Researchers estimate that approximately 10% of the world’s coral reefs are at risk due to sunscreen washed off swimmers. Use mineral and sustainable sunscreens like Suntribe and We Love The Planet.

- Most importantly carry on learning about the issue, educate your friends, family and community about coral bleaching and the importance of coral for our planet and lives. Engage in conversations and mobilize to find solutions that help save our home, the earth.