Is this year’s El Nino Causing Coral Reef Bleaching?

El Nino Southern Oscillation

The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a periodic shift of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific that spreads warm water from one part of the ocean to another and impacts weather around the world. It happens every 3-7 years (5 years on average) and typically lasts nine months to two years.  El Ninos have been implicated in causing coral die-offs since the 1980s.

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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, UNESCO World Heritage Site

There has been much news about the stress and difficulties experienced by Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the largest of our planet’s coral reefs.   The Government of Australia produced in September of 2016 its Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.  “The plan responds to the challenges facing the Reef and presents actions to protect its values, health and resilience while allowing ecologically sustainable use,” the government’s website states.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites.  UNESCO seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.

UNESCO has been monitoring the environmental situation with regard to the Great Barrier Reef, and has posted reports on the coral reef.  The last UNESCO monitoring mission was in 2012.

Queen Parrotfish in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Parrotfish at reef

John Turner, Ph.D has been collecting fecal samples from the parrotfish to study stress in this species of reef fish, and thus to determine whether the entire reef is experiencing stress.  This photo of a Queen Parrotfish was taken among the coral reefs in the U.S. Virgin Islands.