Each year, millions of people hop on boats or slip on flippers to check out one of the natural wonders of the world- the coral reefs.
Due to the amount of damage that has been done to reefs over the last few decades, adventurers, travellers, and organized tours need to halt their trips…and most likely for good.
What Causes Bleaching?
Coral bleaching is caused by an increase in water temperature. El Niños severely damage reefs by spreading warm water across the Pacific Ocean. Intense El Niños only started happening in the 1980’s mainly caused by climate change.
When corals are in warm water for prolonged periods, they become stressed and discharge algae, which is their main source of energy. As a result of a loss of energy, the corals starve, get struck by diseases and eventually die.
According to a study reported by the Guardian, the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef was made 175 times more likely by climate change, meaning human actions can certainly be blamed for this tragedy.
When humans head out to the reefs to explore the beautiful sights, they are not leaving the reefs in the same state as when they arrived. In fact, human contact accelerates the effect of bleaching.
Tourists often touch or step down on the reefs, which seriously damages the state of the reefs. Tourist numbers have been on the rise over the last years, meaning large groups of people are constantly visiting reefs year round.
Who is Affected by Bleaching?
The Great Barrier reefs in Australia have witnessed the effect of bleaching. Nowadays, the bleaching of reefs is quickly spreading further West, with the Maldives being the most recently affected area.
Aside from the severe damage bleaching has on the environment, it also affects tourism, fisheries, and can lead to the flooding of low-lying areas.
In Thailand, diving sites are being shut down due to severe coral bleaching, with 80% of reefs showing signs of bleaching. Although the tourism industry and the economy will certainly be hit, the Thai government sees the immediate need to save the ecosystem.
Before you book your next trip, consider the consequences of visiting reefs. Now is the time to help save these wonderful marine ecosystems before it’s too late.