For ages, Southern Thailand has been globally renowned for its sand beaches and magnificent coral reefs, attracting several millions of international tourists each year. Now, such national reputation could be in jeopardy after severe bleaching of corals was found in 2010. Important dive spots have thus been closed to rescue the marine lives.
The coloration of coral reefs come from a kind of algae called zooxanthellae, which live symbiotically in the corals’ tissues and help generate energy through photosynthesis. When enduring a certain level of stress or disturbance, the algae tend to abandon the corals in search for safer homes. The corals would then be left with no colors, or the whitening effect, and gradually die from deprivation of the much-needed energy.
There are various kinds of disturbances that can cause coral bleaching, ranging from abnormal rises in the water temperature as a result of global warming and pollution released into the sea by inhabitants, tourists, fishing boats, etc to natural disasters like violent storms and tsunamis.