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Scientists sound alarm after making concerning discovery during ocean expeditions: '[They] can die of hunger'

This could deeply wound coastal towns.

This could deeply wound coastal towns.

Photo Credit: iStock

An expedition along Colombia's Caribbean coast revealed alarming levels of coral bleaching, indicating our oceans are overheating.

What's happening?

In July 2023, teams of divers surveyed reefs off the towns of Rincón del Mar, Pico de Náufrago, and Canto del Mero and found that 25% of coral colonies showed signs of bleaching. Over half the tissue was damaged in the impacted colonies, indicating a moderate to high level of harm.

Coral bleaching happens when hotter ocean temperatures stress corals, causing them to expel the algae living inside that provides up to 80% of their nutrients. Coral reefs support nearly 1 million diverse species, and their loss cripples marine habitats.

"When [the algae] are expelled, the corals no longer have anything to eat. If high-temperature conditions persist for a long time, the corals can die of hunger," explained Laura Cotrino, scientific director of Corales de Paz, a nongovernmental organization that works to conserve and restore Colombia's coral reefs.

Why is coral bleaching concerning?

Losing coral reefs has a huge ripple effect, devastating marine biodiversity, food supplies, storm barriers, tourism dollars, and more. Healthy reefs even reduce up to 97% of wave impact against shorelines, according to the eco divers, shielding coastal communities from intensifying climate disasters.

Continued bleaching could deeply wound coastal towns in Colombia that depend on reefs for vital tourism and fishing income. It endangers the regional economy and food stability.

Without quick intervention, entire reef systems could collapse, bringing local aquatic species down with them.

What can you do about coral bleaching?

While individual actions may seem small, collectively they make a big difference for our shared global climate. Here are four simple ways to reduce your impact:

  • Speak up! Call local representatives and ask them to protect marine areas from pollution and overfishing, two additional threats weakening corals worldwide.
  • Reducing your meat intake, even by eating just one plant-based meal per week, helps lower pollution that heats our seas.
  • Use reef-safe mineral sunscreen without oxybenzone, which harms baby corals.
  • Take part in local beach cleanups, which help remove trash and fishing gear that damage reefs.

By banding together to support vulnerable ecosystems, we can all help our planet's corals and coasts.

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