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Good Grief We're Killing the Coral Reef! #Bleaching

Good Grief We're Killing the Coral Reef! #Bleaching

What is Coral Reef?

Now coral reef are colonies of a small animal referred to as a polyp. These polyps secrete carbonate exoskeletons that function as support and protection. A large portion of reef building coral have photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae in the tissues of the coral. 

Disclaimer: Now I found resources that refer to Zooanthellae as a type of algae and as a single celled dinoflagellate so I am not 100% sure which is right. These little dude do contain chlorophyll a and c, as well as peridinin and diadinoxanthinchlorophyll pigments.

Back to it! So, Why do they Live Together & Who does What for Whom?

Coral gives Algae: protection, and building blocks needed for photosynthesis

Algae gives coral: Oxygen and helps remove wastes from the coral. They produce and supply the coral with glucose, amino acids, and glycerol. 

The coral turns around and uses the algae produced products to make fats, proteins, carbohydrates and the ability to produce calcium carbonate (the ingredient for their outer protective layer).The tropical waters are pretty nutrient poor so this mutual relationship between these two facilitates the recycling of nutrients allowing them to thrive in an otherwise strained environment. 

Algae, more specifically, zooxanthellae, creates the gorgeous colors of the corals that we all admire. When the Coral reef gets stressed though the polyps will expel their algae friends. This in turn starves the reek because 90% of all algae organic matter production goes to supporting the polyps that just gave them the boot but also the color is lost hence the word, CORAL BLEACHING. If this carries on too long the reef will die.

Photo by goinyk/iStock / Getty Images What The Coral Reef should look like!

Photo by goinyk/iStock / Getty Images What The Coral Reef should look like!

Coral Bleaching is what I am REALLY concerned about.

  1. Why does this occur? (list taken from

  2. Increased Ocean Temperatures and the decreasing of water temperatures (they have a goldie locks zone)

  3. Oxygen Starvation do to over population of zooplankton causes by over fishing

  4. Increased Solar irradiance

  5. Increased sedimentation from silt runoff

  6. Bacterial infections

  7. Salinity changes 

  8. Herbicides

  9. Low tide

  10. Cyanide Fishing

  11. Elevated sea levels ( didn’t I just saw low tide too? Yeah Im perplexed)

  12. Sunscreen ingredients that wash off int he ocean and are toxic to the reef: (oxybenzone, butylparaben, octyl methoxycinnamate, or enzacamene)


The longest recorded bleaching events occurred between 2014 and 2016. It has been said that this event in 2016 impacted 90% of the coral on the great barrier reef and was responsible for 29-50% the the reefs death.

In 2017, the bleaching further expanded to areas of the reef that were previously spared, such as the central one.



  1.  Dove SG, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2006). "Coral bleaching can be caused by stress. The cell physiology of coral bleaching". In Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Jonathan T. Phinney, William Skirving, Joanie Kleypas. Coral Reefs and Climate Change: Science and Management. [Washington]: American Geophysical Union. pp. 1–18. 

  2. The Guardian. 2016-06-06. Retrieved 2016-10-15.

  3. "Coral bleaching on Great Barrier Reef worse than expected, surveys show". The Guardian. 29 May 2017. Retrieved 29 May 2017.

  4. "The United Nations just released a warning that the Great Barrier Reef is dying". The Independent. 2017-06-03. Retrieved 2017-06-11.

  5. "Mass coral bleaching hits the Great Barrier Reef for the second year in a row". USA TODAY. 13 March 2017. Retrieved 2017-03-14.

  6. Galimberti, Katy (18 April 2017). "Portion of Great Barrier Reef hit with back-to-back coral bleaching has 'zero prospect for recovery'". Retrieved 18 April 2017. When coral experiences abnormal conditions, it releases an algae called zooxanthellae. The loss of the colorful algae causes the coral to turn white.


Photo by g-stockstudio/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by g-stockstudio/iStock / Getty Images

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