Corals Are Bleaching Off South Florida

Climate change is cited as the main cause of coral bleaching around the world.

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A Nurse Shark swims through Biscayne National Park in Florida. Via NPCA Photos/Flickr
John Virata

There is bad news coming out of Florida as scientists have reported that corals off of South Florida, from the Florida Keys to Palm Beach County are bleaching. And scientists say that it is one of the worst bleaching events to occur off the Sunshine State in 20 years.

According to the Sun Sentinel, the bleaching events started this summer as unusually warm ocean water temperatures peaked.

“It’s significant impact, and it’s permanent,” Margaret Miller, ecologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center told the Sun Sentinel. “Corals do not grow back very effectively. So that’s a permanent loss to our coral community. It just becomes rock.”

Most of the bleaching has occurred in the Florida Keys, Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County. Severe bleaching has occurred from Biscayne National Park to Hillsboro Inlet. Scientists say that some of the older 200-  to 300-year-old corals have lost half of their living tissue. Corals that have been adversely affected by the bleaching include pillar corals, maze corals, star corals, and staghorn corals, a threatened species.

The coral reefs off Florida are the only reef tract in the continental United States and the bleaching occurring there is related to a worldwide bleaching event that has devastated coral reefs in Hawaii, and is expected to reach the Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia in the next several years.

Margaret Miller, an ecologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center says that the bleaching has increased in duration and severity in the last several decades and she cites climate change as the common denominator in the increase in bleaching events around the world.

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Article Categories:
Fish · Saltwater Fish