A Third Global Coral Bleaching Event in Five Years Leaves Our Future Under Threat

Bleached branching coral (Acropora sp.) at Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef

Out of sight, without fanfare, below the waves the planet’s corals are dying. Coral reef after reef around the world succumbing to warming waters as a result of changing climate, decimating habitat for sea life. The entire web of life shifts ever closer to crumbling beneath us.

Through the 80’s bleaching events impacted about eight per cent of global reefs. In 2016 alone thirty one per cent of coral suffered bleaching and between 2014 and 2017 seventy five per cent of coral bleached with almost thirty per cent being wiped out. Earlier this year the Great Barrier Reef suffered its third widespread bleaching event in five years, with twenty five per cent of the reef suffering extreme bleaching.

It simply must not be allowed to continue, coral lay at the foundation of the ocean food web, they are nurseries for sea life. Without adequate healthy reefs in the ocean fish stocks will plummet and that will have a direct impact on us. People will suffer. In the area of three billion people rely on fish as a primary source of protein, and the fishing industry world wide employs approximately thirty five million people. 

Corals produce near to half the oxygen on our planet as they have a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae algae. When water temperatures get too high for too long the coral expels the algae, resulting in bleaching, which can lead to death. Life on our planet emerged from the oceans of the world, and indeed to this day relies on a healthy ocean. Without coral reefs in our oceans life becomes markedly more difficult. 

Coral reefs are dying as an outcome of our impacts on the climate resulting from our model of economics which commodifies the natural world and doesn’t factor in the health and sustainability of the environment into economic transactions.  We must reassess our social orientation before we run out of future.

Feature Image – Bleachedcoral by J. Roff CC BY-SA 3.0