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Why Are Lakshadweep Coral Reefs Undergoing Severe Bleaching?

  • The ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has recently revealed alarming findings regarding coral bleaching in the Lakshadweep Sea. This phenomenon, driven by prolonged marine heatwaves, poses a significant threat to the diverse marine ecosystems of the region.
  • Corals are sessile animals with stony skeletons that form the basis of coral reefs.
  • Lakshadweep’s islands are predominantly coral atolls, showcasing the importance of coral reefs to the region’s ecosystem.
  • Corals create intricate ecosystems, often referred to as “rainforests of the sea,” supporting a myriad of marine species.
  • Coral bleaching occurs when corals expel symbiotic algae due to warm water temperatures.
  • Without algae, corals lose their color and are at risk of starvation and disease.
  • The current bleaching event in Lakshadweep has been attributed to prolonged marine heatwaves since October 2023.
  • Corals experience thermal stress when sea surface temperatures exceed 1 degree Celsius above the maximum mean temperature.
  • The Degree Heating Week (DHW) indicator is used to measure accumulated heat stress, with values above 4 degrees Celsius-weeks causing significant coral bleaching.
  • Lakshadweep Sea has been experiencing temperatures 1 degree Celsius above the norm since October 27, 2023, leading to unprecedented bleaching.
  • Marine heatwaves are not isolated to Lakshadweep; they are increasingly prevalent in the Indian Ocean, posing threats to marine ecosystems and coastal communities.
  • A 2022 study by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) reported a significant increase in marine heatwaves, attributing it to rapid warming in the Indian Ocean and strong El Niños.
  • The impacts extend beyond corals to include seagrass meadows, kelp forests, and marine habitats critical for coastal communities and fisheries.
  • Coral bleaching, driven by marine heatwaves, poses a severe threat to Lakshadweep’s marine ecosystems.
  • Increased temperatures in the Lakshadweep Sea have surpassed thresholds for significant coral bleaching, endangering the region’s biodiversity and livelihoods.
  • Regional and global trends indicate a concerning rise in marine heatwaves, emphasizing the urgent need for conservation and climate action.
  1. What causes coral bleaching?
    • Coral bleaching occurs when corals expel symbiotic algae due to warm water temperatures, leading to stress and potential mortality.
  2. How does coral bleaching impact marine ecosystems?
    • Coral bleaching threatens biodiversity, fisheries, and coastal communities dependent on healthy marine ecosystems for livelihoods and sustenance.
  3. What can be done to mitigate coral bleaching?
    • Conservation efforts, including reducing carbon emissions and protecting marine habitats, are crucial for mitigating coral bleaching and preserving marine biodiversity.
  4. Are marine heatwaves a global phenomenon?
    • Yes, marine heatwaves are increasingly prevalent globally, with the Indian Ocean experiencing a significant rise in frequency and intensity in recent years.

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May 2024