EarthLabs > Corals > Lab 6: Using Data to Identify Hot Spots and Predict Bleaching Events

Using Data to Identify Hot Spots and Predict Bleaching Events


Bleached coral. Image courtesy of NASA.

Coral bleaching is a major concern for reefs all over the world. Under certain environmental stresses zooxanthellae algae will vacate their coral hosts. Without the zooxanthellae, corals lose their colors and appear pale or white, hence the name coral bleaching. Zooxanthellae are also coral's primary source of food and play a key role in helping coral polyps build skeletal reef material. Bleaching can be caused by a number of different stresses including changes in ocean chemistry (particularly salinity or acidification), increased sedimentation in the water, high levels of solar irradiance, or pathogen infections. However, the primary cause of bleaching events is believed to be higher than normal sea surface temperatures. During this lab, you will explore some of the tools used by scientists to identify areas around the world where corals are at risk for bleaching. You will also learn about what bleaching means for the long-term health of coral reefs, and invent a way to model what happens in coral polyps during the process of coral bleaching.

After completing this investigation, you should be able to:

Keeping Track of What You Learn

Throughout these labs, you will find two kinds of questions. Your teacher will let you know which answers you should record and turn in.

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