John and Jane in Thailand

J and J have escaped the hurly-burly of life in the USA.

In Hot Water

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By now you have probably all heard there is a world-wide problem of coral bleaching in our seas. And you have probably heard El Niño and global warming are two major contributing factors to this phenomenon as they both cause the ocean’s temperatures to rise. To quote NOAA, “When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white. When the coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality.” The duration of overly warm water will determine if the coral dies. The areas we dive here in Chumphon were hit hard when temperatures climbed to 34C (93.2F) degrees; our usual is 28-30C (82-86F). The temperatures are now back down to summer normal but we don’t know how long the high temperatures lasted because we were in Italy when it started. Our fingers are crossed as we wait and hope to witness the revitalization of our corals.
It has been fascinating diving during this bleaching event. Sad and worrisome, yes but also quite beautiful and intellectually interesting. Why do some corals bleach (stress out and expel the algae) while the same species right next to them don’t and why do some species of coral seem to be more resistant/hardier than others? It is not just corals (hard and soft) that bleach – anemones, corallimorphs, and giant clams also bleach; they too have symbiotic relationships with zooxanthellae algae.
As I said, it has been fascinating and I want to share that experience with you through my photographs in the hopes it will make a rather abstract concept a little more concrete.

CORALS

CORALLIMORPHS

ANEMONES

GIANT CLAMS

Written by Jane Estes

July 17, 2016 at 11:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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