1. Ichthyic says

    Should I be worried?

    if you care at all about the entire planet’s ecosystem… yup. very.

    I sure as hell am.

    we’ve lost nearly 80% of our reefs already.

    if you want to see a living coral reef, you better move quick.

  2. says

    @chigau #2 – Yes.

    A coral reef helps to protect adjacent land by serving as a breakwater, and mitigating surges and tides. If the reef is alive, it can repair itself; if not, the reef will crumble within a few years and its protection will be gone. Coral is the foundation of large system: the coral itself, the animals that feed on the coral and/or the plankton the coral produces, animals who find protection in the reef’s nooks and crannies, animals who depend on these other animals for food, plants able to thrive in the shelter of a reef that could not survive in open water, the animals who depend on those plants, and so on and so on. They also have a large economic boon and help to pump millions into local and national economies in the form of tourism. A number of commercial fisheries depend on the presence of coral reefs.

    The loss of the coral reefs will have a massive impact on coastal ecosystems all over the planet.

  3. says

    I could not go past 1 minute.
    Maybe some people find this kind of zooming in and out and constantly having a completely out of focus image novel and well done, I get dizzy and nauseous.
    Too bad, sounds like an interesting topic.

  4. dorght says

    Is there any evidence of what happened to corals in the past when confronted with the numerous climate changes in their history? Is it the speed of this change that isn’t allowing for natural selection and spread of more adapted dinoflagellates or corals themselves?

  5. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    @PZ, your link under the video says “(via HMMI)” and should be “HHMI” (it goes to the right place though).

  6. dorght says

    Thanks llewelly @10. That article blew away a lot of my simplistic notions, answered some questions and of course generated a lot more. Think the basic problem I had is that it appears that coral is more of a term for a niche then a specific organism.

  7. katwink says

    Photos and video of extensively bleached reefs are truly ghastly. Unfortunately, the process continues unabated around the world. I wonder if the US would be taking stronger action on climate change and ocean acidification if more of our tourism industry relied on healthy coral reefs.

  8. Grewgills says

    @dorght #12

    Think the basic problem I had is that it appears that coral is more of a term for a niche then a specific organism.

    Sorry if this ends up a bit of a hodge podge, but I have a 1 yr old toddling about.
    That’s not exactly the case. A couple of hydrozoans are labelled as corals because of structural similarities. Aside from that corals are from two subclasses (hexa- and octo- corallia), so it is a very broad term. The corals that we are worried about bleaching are the scleractinian or stony corals. Scleractinian corals form calcium carbonate exoskeletons, some of which make up a large portion of tropical reef substrates. Coraline algae and sponges make up much more of the substrate than most people credit. Those stony corals harbor the dinoflagellate zooxanthellae. The zoox are afforded protection from the corals and some of the coral’s waste products are fertilizer for the phytoplankton zoox. The corals primarily gain a ready supply of sugars that supply them with most of their calorie needs. The zoox in addition to providing them the energy that helps them build their skeletons also help mold the chemical environment in a way that makes laying down that skeleton easier. When corals lose their symbionts they don’t just lose energy, they lose a building facilitator.
    Last I was reading there is still some controversy over whether it is the reaction of the coral animal or its symbiont which leads directly to the bleaching and it could be that it depends on the circumstance. In any case once the coral is bleached the chances of the zoox populations reestablishing themselves are relatively small. The research I have seen indicates that corals cannot be ‘infected’ by zoox as adults so only the zoox that they acquired as larvae are available to them. That means that only the remnant population is available to repopulate. Typically corals have at least a couple of clades of zoox and some have over a dozen. Any of these that were lost are lost to the recovered coral. The various species and clades of zoox have different tolerances to temp, light, and water chemistry. There are a number of Red Sea corals that can withstand >30C waters for extended periods that would bleach almost all Caribbean corals. There is some research going on now into infecting the larvae of corals with the more temperature hardy zoox to protect reefs that are experiencing temperature shocks that cause massive bleaching. As with any bioremediation strategy, there are more than a couple of attendant problems that go with that strategy.

  9. Grewgills says

    The ocean acidification problem is even greater for phytoplankton that rely on complex tests (shells) to keep them near the surface of the water. Greater energy requirements to build and maintain their tests will mean more of those phytoplankton fall out of the photic zone and will thus no longer take in CO2, further exacerbating the CO2 problem.