Aug 17, 2019 | Updated: 07:24 AM EDT

Corals Killed By Heatwaves Are Increasing In Number

Aug 15, 2019 08:31 AM EDT

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Coral Reef
(Photo : wanzi98913)

SYDNEY, Australia -- Heatwaves have been affecting the lives of the many ocean creatures particularly that of corals. Sadly, the warmer waters are killing these corals faster than what scientists previously thought according to the new study published by Current Journal  last Friday. 

The rising ocean temperatures have been blamed to global warming and the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The warmer waters have severely damaged the corals through a process referred to by scientists as "coral bleaching". This process involves the killing of the algae that serve as the outer covering of the corals, not to mention what could have helped in nourishing these corals. 

One of the coral bleaching events that hit Australia's Great Barrier Reef between the years 2016 to 2017, may have caused great damages to the corals that will eventually lead to their death in the process that can take months or years. Coral bleaching, however, comes with effects that are severely irreversible too. Even when the waters become cooler, the bleached corals find it challenging to regenerate. 

However, the new study reveals that the severity of the heatwaves actually does not only affect the coral's physical attributes, but it can also actually degrade its skeletal structure, potentially causing its ultimate demise in a matter of days or weeks. 

"The heatwaves have become so severe their effects have gone beyond the bleaching process. It has gone to a point when the coral animal itself is experiencing slow death," said Tracy Ainsworth, a researcher from the University of South Wales and co-author of the study.

The team of researchers who worked on this new study used CT scans of coral reefs to help them monitor the impact of extreme temperatures. 

Scott Heron, the team member from James Cook University said that the rapid dissolution of coral skeletons after a severe episode of heatwave surprised the team. 

"Climate scientists always talk about the unknown of unknowns -- these are impacts that we have yet to truly anticipate because we don't really have an existing knowledge or experience of it," he said. 

"This new discovery about how heatwaves affect corals fits exactly in that category. As we begin to acknowledge this impact, we are able to understand what the unknown unknowns represent and how it could bring death to corals faster than we ever thought possible."

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