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Coral bleaching

Corals are a very strange type of organism. Most corals are what’s called a composite organism, which means that they’re actually made up of thousands of tiny organisms instead of being a single living creature. Dr. Joan Murrell Owens specialized in studying stony corals. Their hard, stony skeleton combined with the colorful algae (called zooxanthellae) are what come together to form the interesting shapes and colors of coral.

Corals need zooxanthellae living on them for food and protection. But changes in ocean water temperature, pollution, and irregularities in ocean tides upsets these algae on coral. When the algae die due to pollutions and climate changes, corals lose their color and become vulnerable to diseases and prone to extinction. This condition is called coral bleaching.

Infographic on coral bleaching from NOAA

To understand more about corals and bleaching, follow the activity below to create your own simulation for coral bleaching. After your experiment, spend some time researching and try to answer the following questions.

(a) How do carbon emissions impact coral reefs across the world?

(b) What are some ways we can reduce our carbon emissions? What actions can you take? What actions can we encourage our governments to take?


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