Rate of bleaching one of fastest seen
The Wildlife Conservation Society deployed marine biologists to Aceh province, on the tip of Sumatra island, in May, when surface waters in the Andaman Sea peaked at 93F (34C) – a 7F (4C) rise over long-term averages.
The teams discovered massive bleaching, which occurs when algae living inside coral tissues are expelled. Subsequent surveys carried out together with Australia’s James Cook University and Indonesia’s Syiah Kuala University showed 80 per cent of those corals have since died.
Though the scientists have yet to submit the data for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, they and others say the speed and extent of mortality appears to exceed that of other bleachings in recent history. The cause appears to be the warming seas, which to some degree can be blamed on global warming.
“This is a tragedy not only for some of the world’s most biodiverse coral reefs, but also for people in the region,” said Caleb McClennen, the New York-based group’s marine program manager for Indonesia, noting that many depend on the rich marine life for their food and money earned through tourism.
“It’s a disappointing development, particularly in light of the fact that these same corals proved resilient to other disruptions to this ecosystem,” Stuart Campbell of the Wildlife Conservation Society wrote on their website.
“It is an unfortunate reminder that international efforts to curb the causes and effects of climate change must be made if these sensitive ecosystems and the vulnerable human communities … that depend on them are to adapt and endure,” Campbell wrote.