Coral Reef Bleaching
Climate change is the greatest global threat to coral reef ecosystems. Scientific evidence now clearly indicates that the Earth's atmosphere and ocean are warming, and that these changes are primarily due to greenhouse gases derived from human activities.
As temperatures rise, mass coral reef bleaching events and infectious disease outbreaks are becoming more frequent. Additionally, carbon dioxide absorbed into the ocean from the atmosphere has already begun to reduce calcification rates in reef-building and reef-associated organisms by altering seawater chemistry through decreases in pH. This process is called ocean acidification.
Climate change will affect coral reef ecosystems, through sea level rise, changes to the frequency and intensity of tropical storms, and altered ocean circulation patterns. When combined, all of these impacts dramatically alter ecosystem function, as well as the goods and services coral reef ecosystems provide to people around the globe.
Threats to coral reefs: climate change
Increased greenhouse gases from human activities result in climate change and ocean acidification. Climate change = ocean change. The world's ocean is a massive sink that absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2). Although this has slowed global warming, it is also changing ocean chemistry.
Climate change dramatically affects coral reef ecosystems
Contributing factors that increase greenhouse gases in the atmosphere include burning fossil fuels for heat and energy, producing some industrial products, raising livestock, fertilizing crops, and deforestation. Climate change leads to:
- A warming ocean: causes thermal stress that contributes to coral bleaching and infectious disease.
- Sea level rise: may lead to increases in sedimentation for reefs located near land-based sources of sediment. Sedimentation runoff can lead to the smothering of coral.
- Changes in storm patterns: leads to stronger and more frequent storms that can cause the destruction of coral reefs.
- Changes in precipitation: increased runoff of freshwater, sediment, and land-based pollutants contribute to algal blooms and cause murky water conditions that reduce light.
- Altered ocean currents: leads to changes in connectivity and temperature regimes that contribute to lack of food for corals and hampers dispersal of coral larvae.
- Ocean acidification (a result of increased CO2): causes a reduction in pH levels which decreases coral growth and structural integrity.
How you can help
- Do your part to help improve overall coral reef condition.
- Reduce the use of lawn and garden chemicals.
- DO NOT dump household chemicals in storm drains.
- Choose sustainable seafood. Visit
- Learn about good reef etiquette and practice it when in the water.
- Volunteer for beach and waterway clean ups.
- learn the 5 R's: refuse, reduce, reuse, rot, recycle: Going zero waste is a great step towards combating climate change. ...
- bike more and drive less: ...
- conserve water and protect our waterways: ...
- eat seasonally, locally, and more plants: ...
- switch to sustainable, clean energy:
- Print less. Download more.
- Purchase energy-efficient appliances and lightbulbs.
- Drive less.
THE GREAT GLOBAL CLEANUP 2020 ✔️
Another exciting opportunity to spearhead the end of plastic pollution is Earth Day Network’s campaign The Great Global Cleanup. This event aims to be “The Largest Environmental Volunteer Event in History” as a celebration of citizen science and the strength of community. There are many existing cleanup events events already in the works. If there is no cleanup already organized in your area, you can register a cleanup of your own.
TURN OFF HYDRO ✔️
Many household electronics, such as video game consoles, stereos, computers, and kitchen appliances, continue drawing power after they are switched off. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that this “phantom” energy use accounts for 75% of the power consumed by electronics in the average home. Eliminate this extra energy use by unplugging your gadgets or using a power strip to safely and quickly cut power to electronics that are not in use.
NO DISPOSABLE CONTAINERS ✔️
The trash we "throw away" doesn't disappear. Plastic bags, disposable food containers, snack wrappers, and other loose garbage can be washed into local waterways and eventually end up in the ocean where it poses a major hazard for marine life. Seabirds, turtles, seals, and other animals can mistake floating plastic for food or become tangled in it and die. So ditch the disposable lifestyle, and make a point to bring your own reusable shopping bags, beverage cups, and food containers.
INFLATE CAR TIRES ✔️
Hitting the road? Grab a simple tire gauge and make sure your tires are properly inflated. You can trim your carbon footprint, reduce wear and tear on your vehicle, and save yourself some cash at the same time. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that under-inflated tires waste about 1.2 billion gallons of gas per year in the U.S. Cutting back on fossil fuel consumption can help curb the effects of climate change and ocean acidification, which are altering ocean chemistry and disrupting marine wildlife on a global scale
IF YOU EAT SEAFOOD ENSURE SUSTAINABLE ✔️
When it comes to many of our once-favorite seafood's, there aren't always plenty more fish in the sea. In fact, some studies estimate that up to 90 percent of large predatory fish (those that eat other animals—and usually end up on our dinner plates) have disappeared since humans began heavy fishing. You can help turn the tide by demanding sustainable seafood at the supermarket and in your favorite restaurants.
BUY FROM ZERO CARBON COMPANYS ✔️
Though we can make a difference through our own habits, corporations obviously have a much bigger footprint. If you believe a company could be smarter about its packaging, make your voice heard. Write a letter, send a tweet, or hit them where it really hurts: Give your money to a more sustainable competitor.
HOUSEHOLD CLEANING THE RIGHT WAY ✔️
Even if you don't live near the coast, water and anything else that goes down your drain can eventually end up in the ocean. You can help keep the ocean and other waterways healthy by picking your cleaning products carefully. Many household chores can be done with simple, non-toxic ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, or lemon juice.
SKIP THE BALLOON AND LANTERN RELEASES ✔️
It might seem like an innocent romantic wedding idea, or a cultural event, but releasing balloons or sky lanterns, including the ones labeled “biodegradable,” can travel thousands of miles until they eventually land on the ground or water in the form of litter. What’s worse: birds, animals and marine life mistake the debris for food which clogs the digestive system and leads to starvation.
Safe Alternatives: Blow bubbles, plant a tree or write a wish on flying wish paper, roll it up, light it and let it go. The latter leaves minimal ash without harming the environment.