Recently bleached staghorn coral (Acropora sp.)

Saving our corals

It has been well established that corals, in general, are negatively affected by two of the main factors that define climate change; increase in both sea surface temperatures and CO2 in the atmosphere. These conditions lead towards the breakdown in the relationship between the coral and their symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae. The failed relationship under these environmental stresses often leads towards the loss of zooxanthellae. Corals, especially those that do not make their own color pigments that experience a major loss in zooxanthellae appear white, as their now colorless tissue does not mask their white calcium carbonate skeleton. If these environmental conditions persist, the coral will ultimately die.For many years, scientists and conservation agencies have been working to figure out how to stop corals from bleaching and while they would all readily agree that the best solution is to retard the rise in sea surface temperatures and addition to CO2 in the atmosphere, most generally focus on the corals themselves.

Bubble coral (Plerogyra sinuosa)...

Bubble coral (Plerogyra sinuosa)…

This new study (read about it here) is interesting as it addresses a potential solution on a global scale, rather than on a local one. There are many, including me that would still feel this is a band-aid solution—albeit a much larger band-aid than normal—but it is one that finally looks at making a positive impact on a global scale. Of course, what would the reduction of the sun’s energy have on our planet? Would it not be ironic if this method were to blast us into another ice age?

The only thing about this article that seems a bit confusing is what impact this would have on ocean acidification. The study clearly points to a reduction in solar insolation (reflecting some of the sun’s energy away from the planet) and has very little to do with the mitigation of CO2 in the atmosphere (the main, if not sole cause of ocean acidification). But, it is an interesting study…