According to a report released recently by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in which the scientists explored the risk of coral bleaching around the world, Florida coral reefs are significantly affected by the effects of climate change.
The experts explain that coral bleaching occurs when the oceans are warmed due to climate change. Because of this warming, the algae that live close to the corals leave, which makes the coral lose its vibrant colors. The corals then turn white as more algae leave.
Coral bleaching has been happening more frequently in recent years, becoming more acute in the last 20 years.
Previous studies suggest that the majority of coral reefs found in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico will experience bleaching in the near future.
The latest report from NOOA has detailed when and where coral bleaching will take place. According to the study published in the journal Global Change Biology, coral bleaching may vary in timing and location.
Ruben van Hooidonk, a researcher at NOOA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and one of the lead authors of the study, explained that the recent findings will help resource managers to better understand how coral bleaching occurs and how to avoid it from happening.
The researchers refer to some locations as “relative refugia” saying that these locations are less likely to experience extreme events and temperature changes, which will give them time to adapt to the increasing effects of climate change.
Van Hooidonk said that because of this, managers can use this information to try and protect these locations, treating them as refuges.
Also, these special locations could be helped if the managers reduce the damaging effects of human activities.
NOOA identified other locations, aside from Florida, that are expected to experience coral bleaching in the next 15 or so years. These other regions include Mexico, the Bahamas, Cuba, Caicos, Turks, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
These areas should be protected first, according to the NOOA report.
The disappearance of coral reefs can have an economic, ecological and social effect, the researchers explain. Without these coral reefs, many species of fish will lose the habitat they need in order to thrive, which will affect the people whose main food source is fish.