Scientists organize to tackle crisis of coral bleaching

by University of Washington 

Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems in the world, protecting coastlines from erosion and supporting more than 500 million people through tourism and fishing livelihoods. But at the current rate of global warming, mass coral bleaching is expected to become more frequent and severe worldwide.

Bleached corals in the Red Sea. Photo courtesy of University of Washington; by Anna Roik.

Coral bleaching is a significant problem for the world’s ocean ecosystems: When coral becomes bleached, it loses the algae that live inside it, turning it white. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but while they are bleached they are at higher risk for disease and death.

Now an international consortium of scientists, including a coral researcher from the University of Washington, has created the first-ever common framework for increasing comparability of research findings on coral bleaching. The work, described in a paper published Nov. 21 in the journal Ecological Applications, provides a common language and reference points for researchers to compare results across studies.

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