Fears mount of massive Caribbean coral bleaching: study

September 23, 2010
An experts' review has found that there is a high risk for bleaching damage to coral in the south and southeastern Caribbean. That could cause a repeat of damage done back in 2005 when 90 percent of coral in the area were damaged and 10 percent were destroyed.

Above-average temperatures this year could spark massive coral bleaching in the Caribbean basin region, experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned Wednesday after a major study.

The review found that there is a high risk for bleaching damage to coral in the south and southeastern Caribbean. That could cause a repeat of damage done back in 2005 when 90 percent of coral in the area were damaged and 10 percent were destroyed.

"High temperatures cause corals to force out the that provide them with food. This makes the corals appear white or ‘bleached’ and can increase outbreaks of infectious disease," said Mark Eakin, coordinator of NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch.

"Temperatures are high in the Caribbean, and we expect this to continue," Eakin added, so "this season has the potential to be one of the worst bleaching seasons for some reefs."

Bleaching that goes on for even just a week can lead to the death of the coral, and to the loss of marine habitat, experts say.

Emma Hickerson, a sanctuary research coordinator, said that a NOAA survey cruise just returned from the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.

"We saw serious bleaching," she said of the sanctuary. "Several species were bleached and we are concerned we could lose much of the fire corals this year," she warned.

Scientists say corals are vital to marine life because they provide habitats for a vast variety of creatures and absorb large levels of poisonous carbon dioxide.

Explore further: Satellite praised for coral bleaching info

Related Stories

Larry's cool change good for reef

March 22, 2006

Cyclone Larry has been a nightmare on land but underwater, it may have helped save the Great Barrier Reef from disaster. University of Queensland coral reef expert Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said Larry's wind had cooled ...

First Coral Species Listed as Threatened

May 24, 2006

Coral reefs, the most productive and diverse marine ecosystems in the world, are based on the coral organisms that build reefs. Drastic coral declines in the last 25 years have resulted in the listing of two species, staghorn ...

Caribbean, Gulf spared widespread coral damage

November 6, 2009

(AP) -- Lower-than-feared sea temperatures this summer gave a break to fragile coral reefs across the Caribbean and the central Gulf of Mexico that were damaged in recent years, scientists said Thursday.

Coral disease outbreaks linked to cooler temperatures

September 17, 2010

For the first time, scientists have linked mild water temperatures during the preceding winter period with outbreaks of coral diseases on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. By studying satellite measurements of unusual sea surface ...

Recommended for you

New study sheds light on end of Snowball Earth period

August 24, 2015

The second ice age during the Cryogenian period was not followed by the sudden and chaotic melting-back of the ice as previously thought, but ended with regular advances and retreats of the ice, according to research published ...

Earth's mineralogy unique in the cosmos

August 26, 2015

New research from a team led by Carnegie's Robert Hazen predicts that Earth has more than 1,500 undiscovered minerals and that the exact mineral diversity of our planet is unique and could not be duplicated anywhere in the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.