The reef is dying,
The media is constantly bombarding us with the devastating news of coral bleaching and despair at the destruction of this essential ecosystem. But how much do you actually understand about the bleaching process and what this all means?
Inside the cells of coral and anemones lives a symbiotic algae (as explained in Jess’ coral blog! (http://www.atollvolunteers.com/coral-bleaching)), called zooxantellea. This algae photosynthesizes and gives energy to the anemone, allowing it to grow, also providing the vibrant colours that anemones display.
But this symbiosis is extremely vulnerable to climate change!
When extended stress events occur such as increased sea surface temperatures, high solar irradiance or high sediment loads the zooxanthellae is unable to photosynthesize effectively. Both coral and anemones know when their symbiotic algae is not functioning correctly and expel them from their cells in search of an algae more adapted to these new and compromised conditions. In the absence of the zooxanthellae the coral and anemones appear white and are referred to as bleached.
Bleaching effects anemones in a number of ways:
- The white appearance of the anemone indicates a loss of nutrients and energy provided by their symbiotic algae.
- Anemones can decrease in size up to 80% due to bleaching and they rely more heavily on their venom and nematocyst production in order to source food for themselves.
- Their symbiotic fish, the clownfish is also negatively impacted by bleaching events. Bleached anemones are often abandoned by clownfish if there is a healthy one available, if not the clownfish is subjected to lower fecundity (less babies produced) and higher predation levels (bright orange against white is a beacon for predators!).
- The loss of their anemonefish can reduce the recovery capacity of anemones as the extra nutrients and aeration the clownfish provide is lost.
But what can we do?
Unfortunately, the impacts of climate change have moved past small everyday changes to make a difference. While Meatfree Monday, not using single use plastics and energy saving light bulbs are still important, the real change is needed on a global policy scale. You might be thinking but I can’t change that.
YES, YOU CAN!!
The future is ours and the direction it takes depends entirely on us and our actions right now. Get educated.
Find the local member in your area that has a climate policy, if they don’t have any petition them! Show the value of protecting the environment and our future. Renewable energy, divestment in fossil fuel (clean coal isn’t a thing), sustainable fisheries, marine protected areas and carbon taxes for big business. The list is endless but the government you vote in should support all these measures!
The future of our reef is in your hands.
The time is now!
By Cassie Hoepner