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4th Largest Coral Reef Bleaching in Lakshadweep: Impact of Coral Destruction on Marine Diversity

The biodiversity of coral reef is threatened globally!

Summer is an exciting season to explore coastal areas, however, this year is going to be tragic. Vibrant and colourful coral reefs, when triggered by high sea temperatures become colourless is known as Coral bleaching. According to the Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS): “A marine heatwave event of moderate category with area of spreading 98.56% has been observed on May 3 over the Lakshadweep coast.”

In this article, we will discuss about the impact of coral reef bleaching on marine biodiversity.

Coral Catastrophe:

Believe it or not, climate change is real and it's destructing nature. Not only it's impacting us on the ground, it is also destroying lives in the ocean. Generally, excess heat leads to change in seawater pH and acidity causing rapid destruction of marine species.

Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) recently released a statement on ongoing crisis: “Marine heatwaves are rare extreme weather events that involve prolonged periods of abnormally high ocean temperatures. This poses a substantial risk of coral bleaching, threatening the region’s diverse marine ecosystems.”

This is not the first time Lakshadweep is facing coral reef bleaching. Lakshadweep has previously faced coral bleaching in 1998, 2010 and 2016.

Impact on Lakshadweep Ecosystem:

The immediate visible impact of sea water warning is coral reef bleaching. The CMFRI researchers have been observing severe coral bleaching from around mid April.

“We have a survey team in Lakshadweep that identified that a very large area (around 934 sqkm) has been impacted. The Lakshadweep atolls are built on corals. If these corals are destroyed it will impact the livelihoods of fishermen because these corals support fish. If corals are impacted, the growth and size of the island will also be affected because the island is made of coral sand or particles,” added KR Sreenath, senior scientist at CMFRI.

Is Indian Ocean Becoming More Vulnerable?

Roxy Mathew Koll, climate scientist at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology explained this ocean temperature rise and associated impact “While the Indian Ocean warmed at a rate of 1.2°C per century during 1950–2020, climate models, we assessed, predict accelerated warming, at a rate of 1.7°C–3.8°C per century during 2020–2100. Though the warming is basin-wide, maximum warming is in the northwestern Indian Ocean including the Arabian Sea. The rapid warming in the Indian Ocean is not limited to the surface. The heat content of the Indian Ocean, from surface to 2000 meters deep, is currently increasing at the rate of 4.5 zetta-joules per decade.”

Scary Future:

Some of the experts mentioned that they expected this kind of impact on Indian ocean. As rate of global warming is increasing, we are entering into an unprecedented scary future.

Roxy Mathew Koll predicted: “The future increase in heat content is comparable to adding the energy equivalent of one Hiroshima atomic bomb detonation every second, all day, every day, for a decade… Marine heatwaves, periods of extremely high temperatures in the ocean, are expected to increase from 20 days per year to 220–250 days per year. This will push the tropical Indian Ocean into a near-permanent heatwave state.”

Impact on Economy:

People in coastal region depends on two important sources of income: tourism and fisheries. Due to climate change, marine biodiversity is getting destroyed gradually. Furthermore, tragic loss of beauty decreases growth of tourism sector. So, climate change can potentially destroy the livelihood of people in these vulnerable coastal areas.

Derek Manzello, the coordinator of NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Coral Reef Watch, expressed concerns about the ongoing crisis: “It's looking like the entirety of the Southern Hemisphere is probably going to bleach this year. We are literally sitting on the cusp of the worst bleaching event in the history of the planet.”