For those that have had the opportunity to visit The Great Barrier will remember it as an amazing array of colorful corals that are resplendent on the seabed. It is a tranquil display of bright and beautiful colors that form this natural icon that is internationally renowned. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park boasts of almost 600 varieties of coral, and they come in all different of shapes, sizes and colors.

But that isn’t how it is any more.

The corals on the seabed are slowly dying. Almost 35% of the corals have already wasted away and there is fear of the rest going the same way.

In April of this year it was reported that almost 1000 kms of the Great Barrier Reef has been bleached and the situation is getting rapidly worse with global warming. Soon the entire reef could become devoid of all the color that it is so famously known for.

But, what is coral bleaching? To understand that we need to first get a quick lesson on how the corals get their color. Corals have an algae, called Zooxanthallae, that live within their tissues that give them their color. Zooxanthellae, just like plants, use the sun to photosynthesize food for themselves, which the coral also feed on. This need for direct sunlight is the reason why corals are found in shallow waters.

Abnormal environmental conditions, like the rise in temperature levels of the sea, cause these Zooxanthellae, the photosynthetic algae, to leave the body of the coral, which cause the corals to turn white and look bleached.

This leads to the corals dying over time.

The bright side is that bleached corals can recover if the temperature drops and the Zooxanthellae can be induced back into the corals. There is also positive News that 95% of the corals south of Cairns have been partially bleached but are still surviving.

Dr. Mia Hoogenboom from James Cook University mentions “we expect mildly bleached corals to regain their normal color over the next few months.” But this is another warning of the drastic effects of global warming. Another step towards a colorless world.