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Coral bleaching observed near Mandapam, Keezhakkarai, Palk Bay

Coral bleaching observed near Mandapam, Keezhakkarai, Palk Bay

The National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) and researchers led by Dr. Shanmugaraj have found an alarming pattern of bleaching in the reefs in Mandapam, Keezhakkarai and Palk Bay.

The National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) is an institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences in India. It has a field research station in the Gulf of Mannar region.

Study found that sea surface temperature ranged from 28.7°C to 31°C in the August 2018-February 2019 period and there was no bleaching seen then. However, when the temperatures rose to between 32°C and 36°C between March 2019 and May 2019, researchers observed a pattern of bleaching in corals, which was different at different layers within the sea.

About 12% of coral species observed at depths between 0m and 2m were completely bleached. About 5% of species observed at depths between 2m and 4m were partially bleached. Poritesspecies observed in Palk Bay region were completely bleached at depths from zero to 4 metres. Corals at depths over 5m did not face bleaching.

Coral reefs are important hotspots of biodiversity in the ocean. Corals are animals in the same class (Cnidaria) as jellyfish and anemones. Coral reefs support a wide range of species and maintain the quality of the coastal biosphere. Corals control the level of carbon dioxide in the water by converting it into a limestone shell. If this process does not take place, the amount of carbon dioxide in the ocean water would increase significantly and affect ecological niches.

When a coral bleaches, it does not die but comes pretty close to it. Some of the corals may survive the experience and recover once the sea surface temperature returns to normal levels.

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