A NOAA scientist discusses the 2005 coral bleaching event in the Caribbean. Download the mp3 file.
Coral Reef Bleaching Transcript
Program #4741 of the Earth & Sky Radio Series
JB: In late 2005, coral reef experts reported a major coral bleaching event in the Caribbean. It could threaten much of the coral living in that region.
DB: Jeannette Waddell is a marine ecologist with National Ocean Service. She spoke with us about monitoring Caribbean coral bleaching, which is being caused by unusually warm ocean waters.
Jeannette Waddell: ...Many of the corals, and I mean large colonies of living coral are now completely white. And, essentially, what happened is that the symbiotic algae that live within the coral colony are expelled from the coral. And that’s why they appear white, because they’re missing their algae. The algae are what help them to process nutrients and basically feed the corals. And so, essentially these corals that are bleached are slowly starving to death.
JB: Waddell told us that coral ecosystems aren’t only threatened by a warming ocean. Other threats include runoff and sedimentation from coastal development, marine debris from discarded fishing nets, overfishing near reefs, and invasive species from the ballast water of ships.
DB: But, Waddell said, in contrast to a world ocean whose surface temperatures are rising, the other threats to coral are easier to address and control.
Audio file courtesy of the Earth & Sky Radio Series.