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Environmental Essay on Coral Bleaching

Coral bleaching has become an urgent topic among the experts who are involved in the analysis of various environmental issues. Many people do not understand the problem of coral bleaching. Corals are quite unique organisms that live according to their own style. Some corals are colorful. Others are white. Why do people care about the color of corals? The answer is easy. When corals become pale, they are luckier to die. Consequently, we lose vast areas of coral reefs that make our planet beautiful. What is more, corals are the parts of huge ecosystems. Millions of microorganisms, plants and fish live among corals. These reefs are the home to such organisms. When corals die, millions of water organisms disappear too. Thus, the problem of coral bleaching is very considerable. Its effects are harmful for biological diversity and global economy. The best solution is to stop coral bleaching defeating the cause of this process.

Before we try to understand the cause of coral bleaching, let us get to know why they lose their color. You ought to know that corals live in the tight interconnection with the algae called zooxanthellae. This symbiotic relationship enables both organisms to survive. Zooxanthellae live in the tissues of corals and fulfil their specific functions there. Corals play the role of home to the algae. They protect these microorganisms from the harmful and dangerous environment. On their turn, the zooxanthellae provide corals with oxygen and clean them from wastes. Moreover, these algae are the major source of food to corals. Therefore, this interconnection is useful to both sides. When the concentration of the algae declines, corals begin to starve. They suffer from the lack of food and oxygen. They are ‘stressed’ and close to dying. The color of corals depends on the type of the symbionts that live in their tissues. When symbionts disappear, corals become pale. This color is natural to them whereas their skeletons consist of calcium carbonate. Colorful symbionts cover these skeletons, protect them from the harmful environment and feed corals at the same time. It is easy to notice that marvelous colorful coral reefs become pale and monotonous. They no longer serve as the home for algae, fish and microorganisms. Coral reefs begin to look devastated. Scientists are concerned about the condition of the coral ecosystems. They try to understand the cause of the process of coral bleaching.

It is possible to enumerate many causes of coral bleaching. However, I will focus on the several most notable ones. The most obvious cause is the water temperature. When the temperature is increased or decreased, algae feel uncomfortable and leave corals. They are very sensitive and require stable temperatures that maintain their functioning. Nowadays, the temperature has changed everywhere because of global warming. The streams of the extremely warm (or cold) water appear in the areas where they have never been noticed. This change is harmful for microorganisms and they have to leave these inconvenient areas.

Secondly, there is a problem of pollution. When people pour wastes and litter into seas and oceans, the water becomes contaminated with the substances that can be harmful to microorganisms. As a result, they die disappearing from the coral reefs.

The third cause is oxygen starvation. This problem is caused by the increase of zooplankton in the water. The increased amount of zooplankton is determined by overfishing. When people fish too much, there is not enough fish to consume zooplankton. Thereof, its level is too high. It consumes oxygen depriving algae of it.

The next problem is solar irradiance. Bear in mind that corals are located close to the sea surface and they are vulnerable to the impact of solar radiation.

The following problem is the change of salinity. This indicator is vital whereas many organisms live in the water with the specific saltiness. If its level moves forward or back, it is stressful for animals, fish, corals and algae.

If you look at the factors that cause coral bleaching, you will understand that they are interconnected. It is impossible to save corals if we do not solve such problems as global warming, pollution or overfishing. Every problem causes a chain of other related problems. Therefore, bleaching will be defeated only if we apply complex methods aimed at the improvement of the ecological situation on Earth. Coral bleaching causes extinction of biological species and causes harm to our economy inasmuch as many countries make money on tourists who come to admire colorful coral reefs.

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