Great Barrier Reef coral reef bleaching in 2016 El Nino

You may have heard the term “coral bleaching”, but may not have seen close up picture of it.  This large scale bleaching was seen on the Great Barrier Reef, and was originally reported by the Australian “ARC Centre of Excellence Coral Reef Studies”.  Several news agencies picked  it up (including the item from FOX included here)

Great Barrier Reef hit by widespread coral bleaching | Fox News

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has been hit by widespread coral bleaching, which has the potential to be devastating to one of the world’s most iconic natural wonders. Battered by record warming on land and sea the past two years, coral reefs around the world have suffered bleaching events.

 

So what’s so special about this particular coral bleaching?  The fact that it happened in the Northern areas of the Barrier Reef, where coral reefs have been largely unscathed by bleaching.  The past few months represented the peak of the Australian winter, and with that comes the warming of the ocean around the reefs.

This winter the El Nino weather effect brought warmer water to the Barrier Reef.  This temperature increase was too much for the algae that live inside the coral polyps (the animals that build the reefs).  The polyps ejected the algae, so what’s left of the coral is now without color, and that’s where the “bleached” look comes from.  The polyps survive for a while on their own, but eventually they need their photosynthetic symbiotic algae to function.  It’s estimated that about half of the bleached algae return to normal; this also means that about half of the corals will die.

The inspiration for my work is two-fold.  One is the vulnerability of ocean life to changes in the environment; the other is the inherent will to fight for survival even when facing uncontrollable environment.

Robert Kokenyesi, Beachfront Pottery, Godfrey, IL, USA

 

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