Global scientists have reported that record high ocean temperatures were experienced in August 2023.
Why does this matter to us? There are a few reasons, when ocean temperatures get too hot it can result in corals becoming stressed and this can result in what is commonly called 'bleaching' due to their ghostly white appearance.
Why does this happen? This diagram explains the process leading to corals bleaching:
Why is this a problem? Coral reefs are habitats with some of the greatest biodiversity on Earth. They depend upon nearby ecosystems such as seagrass beds and mangroves. Fish shelter in the shallow water amongst the roots of mangrove forests when they are young and then they move to coral reefs when they become adults. Eating fish, conch and lobster is essential to a BVI diet, so healthy coral reefs mean healthy fish populations.
What can you do? Humans add additional stress to corals by cutting roads that are left unpaved, resulting in sediment being washed into the sea. This sediment smothers corals and prevents the zooxanthellae algae that live on them from getting the sunlight that they need to photosynthesize and make energy for the coral. Paving roads and only cutting the minimum number of trees and vegetation on your land can make a big difference in reducing sedimentation and helping to protect BVI coral reefs!
The photo above shows a partially bleached coral in the BVI. (Photo by Dr. Shannon Gore)
Heavy sediment load going into the sea at Jost Van Dyke, 2023