28 Jan '15, 7pm

Coral reefs are about to crash in a big way

Coral reefs are about to crash in a big way

Coral reefs cover just 0.1 percent of the ocean floor, but provide habitat to 25 percent of sea-dwelling fish species. That’s why coral scientist C. Mark Eakin, who coordinates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch program, is surprised that the warning he has been sounding since last year — that the globe’s corals appear to be on the verge of a mass-scale bleaching event — hasn’t drawn more media attention. Bleaching happens when corals lose contact with zooxanthellae , an algae that essentially feeds them nutrients in symbiotic exchange for a stable habitat. The coral/zooxanthellae relationship thrives within a pretty tight range of ocean temperatures , and when water warms above normal levels, corals tend to expel their algal lifeline. In doing so, corals not only lose the brilliant colors zooxanthellae deliver — hence, “bleaching” — but...

Full article: http://grist.org/article/coral-reefs-are-about-to-crash-i...

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