Natural coral reefs around the Florida Keys are dying off at a rapid pace. After setting a new global record for the hottest seawater on record at 101.1 on July 24th at a depth of 5 ft, divers have discovered a mass bleaching and dying off of the native coral growth.
Now multiple reefs are completely bleached or dying off at an incredibly rapid pace. Happening in under two weeks, these reefs are perishing at a rate not before seen. As part of their investigation, researchers are inspecting reefs further below the ocean’s surface, but many are already hypothesizing that they will ultimately suffer a similar fate.
Seawater temperatures like these aren’t exclusive to the Keys either. Across the state, the mixture of low precipitation and high air temperatures make it easy for the temp of the seawater to skyrocket. As the temps continue like this across the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Gulf of Mexico, many wonder if Florida could be in for a massive and severe hurricane should a tropical wave off of Africa be able to properly develop.
Still, the destruction of these reefs is a pressing matter at the moment.
Keri O’Neal, the director and senior scientist at the Florida Aquarium spoke with CNN about the massive problem these water temperatures and dead coral will bring to the ocean. “This is akin to all of the trees in the rainforest dying. Where do all of the other animals that rely on the rainforest go to live? This is the underwater version of the trees in the rainforest disappearing. Corals serve that same fundamental role.”
Much like forests, coral is all over the ocean, even where we haven’t seen it. It is an incredible feature of our oceans and helps keep the ecosystem in check. This die-off could have a tremendous and very long-lasting impact on our oceans and ecosystem as a whole.