Catastrophic coral reef bleaching in the USA, Central America and Caribbean

When the temperature of the sea water begins to exceed the average temperature by a couple of degrees, the heat stress pushes the corals to expel the symbiotic algae, from which the corals draw their colors and their nourishmen

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Catastrophic coral reef bleaching in the USA, Central America and Caribbean

United States (Florida) Caribbean and Central American countries are grappling with a catastrophic bleaching of coral reefs, due in large part to the acidification of the waters, which is steadily increasing, as well as the dramatic increase in global temperatures and gas emissions greenhouse.

This is leading to a colossal and devastating coral death in the countries involved. According to the researchers, the trend may lead to the extinction of these biomes. This is due to the dramatic increase in the temperatures of seas and oceans around the world, from CO2 and other greenhouse emissions.

When the temperature of the sea water begins to exceed the average temperature by a couple of degrees, the heat stress pushes the corals to expel the symbiotic algae, from which the corals draw their colors and their nourishment.

These unicellular algae perform photosynthesis and thus produce nutrients for the corals. The longer they are left alone by single-celled algae due to heat stress, the greater the risk that they will die. As abnormal temperatures have been affecting the seas for months, there is a risk of an unprecedented mass coral die-off.

In addition to those of the Florida Keys, the coral reefs of the Bahamas and Cuba, Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and El Salvador are currently being dramatically affected.

Catastrophic coral reef bleaching in the USA, Central America and Caribbean

The increase in temperatures could already lead by 2025 to the collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, a fundamental system of currents of the Atlantic Ocean, with consequences for billions of people.

Ian Enochs, head of the coral program at NOAA, said: "I wasn't prepared for what I saw there. Every single coral I saw was affected, bleached, or severely pale. It's kind of hard to get over that. It's hard to deal with. The warm water is literally tearing the soft corals apart, dropping bits of tissue onto the bottom." Derek Manzello, coordinator of Coral Reef Watch at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), explained to the Guardian: "I don't think any of these places have ever seen heat stress like this before.

This it will only get worse until there is a global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This is essentially a big field experiment. The big fear is that there will be catastrophic mortality."