Climate Change Induced Coral Bleaching

By: Allison Johnson

In the documentary watched last class, “Before the Flood”, there is a segment where Leonardo DiCaprio dives into the ocean to explore the desolated corals that lied below. As mentioned, the sea is a buffer system for the Carbon Dioxide that is increasingly overtaking our atmosphere. As a result of the stresses felt by the sea, coral reefs have started to mutate into what is referred to as bleached coral. The coral viewed in class was desolate, absent of life and reflected a world I find had to identify as my own. From this, I wanted to explore and understand more about coral bleaching, what causes it and where it leaves us.


An article in The Nature Conspiracy, “Oceans & Coasts: What you Need to Know”, does a great job of outlining these questions and concerns. One of the major contributing factors of coral bleaching is a rise in temperature, “when you have really hot summers, you can expect that corals will get stressed, and bleaching is likely” (Oceans). Other factors mentioned are Pollution from agriculture or urban run-off, change in salinity (saltiness) and intense UV-Rays (Oceans). The vibrant colors we are all associate with coral reefs are in fact, “tiny algae that live in their tissues” (Oceans). The algae and coral have a symbiotic relationship, in that the algae are provided with structural support to latch on and absorb sunlight and the coral feeds off the carbohydrates the algae produce during photosynthesis.

The silver lining to coral bleaching, is knowing that even if a reef goes through a bleaching process or phase, it is not technically dead. The coral reefs would still need the presence of algae to survive long term, but if stress factors that impede on the reefs where to be alleviated then there is hope.

Of course, reducing pollution and lowering the overall temperature are not easy tasks. It calls for grand gestures, the era of changing the world one light bulb at a time or recycled bottle is not realistic. Nor achievable to undo all of the ever-increasing destruction that has been placed on the sea and Earth as a whole. I’m not sure of what macro efforts need to be implemented to make such a substantial change to our environment. I’d love to hear thoughts about what can be done to really reverse these measures.



“Oceans & Coasts: What you Need to Know.” The Nature Conspiracy, Accessed 22 Nov. 2016.

4 thoughts on “Climate Change Induced Coral Bleaching

  1. it is so sad that this is happening to the coral reefs. This along with many other beautiful things in nature seem to be depleting.
    Lauren Reinhard


  2. I agree with Lauren that this is a topic that really gets to me. Coral reefs and all sea life in general is so beautiful but is being drastically destroyed. This blog was very informative and brought up a lot of aspects I never thought about!

    Josie Silvey


  3. Many people talk about how to fix the air, and how to fix the atmosphere so it is safer for humans sort and long term, but not many people know about how the ocean acts a sort of a buffer, absorbing much of the CO2 that goes into the atmosphere. The lack of knowledge about this subject has led to an extreme neglect of the oceans. Many people believe we can recover the air and atmosphere, but do you think there is hope for the ocean?

    Halle Van De Hey


  4. I also wrote on a similar topic. I was surprised to learn though that once the reef is bleached it is not completely dead.
    -claire greve


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