2014-16 El Nino Spurs Largest Coral Bleaching Event on Record

Samples of bleached coralBEACON TRANSCRIPTExperts at the International Coral Reef Symposium recently said that the latest El Nino event was behind the most devastating and long lasting coral bleaching event on record.

Experts explained that coral worldwide lost their color because of the El Nino-triggered tidal wave of heat hitting world’s oceans.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week that corals worldwide might be affected by bleaching for a third year in a row. Experts hope the event to stop by the end of the year.

Climatologists said that the event’s days are numbered as El Nino shows signs that it is about to be replaced by La Nina. But high sea temperatures will persist several more months, experts cautioned.

NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch team members said that all the reefs of North America will be affected by another bleaching event. Florida and Hawaii are two of the states severely hit by such events over the last two years. If there will be a third year of bleaching, consequences will be hard to imagine, experts warn.

The good news is that this year’s potential bleaching event won’t be as devastating as the other two events, NOAA said. But the agency advises authorities to stay alert and prepare for a third event.

Biologists explained that consecutive coral bleaching events can have a tremendous impact on corals worldwide. The highest mortality rates for corals are recorded in years marked by such events.

Experts explained that while a single event is not enough to kill corals, consecutive events can weaken the marine organisms and prevent them from recovering. The risk of death also surges in such years.

Experts found that the Pacific islands in Micronesia will be severely impacted if another coral bleaching takes place. These islands rely on corals to feed the population and lure in tourists.

NOAA’s Jennifer Koss said that local conservation efforts are not sufficient. These efforts can only “buy time,” but an international effort could best help solve the issue. Scientists worldwide call for large scale solutions and government involvement.

Local efforts include the creation of coral nurseries and planting of stronger breeds of corals that can withstand extreme weather conditions. The University of Hawaii’s Institute of Marine Biology has already developed a type of super coral by breeding local corals with corals that live in slightly warmer waters and show tolerance to high temperatures.
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