Coral reefs are dying, and revealing some aspects of life. Warm water, oxygen deprivation, pollution, are killing coral reefs leaving bleached underwater expanses. Researchers are studying the aftermath and finding a series of consequences, some of which offer hope. In some cases, the coral recovers. As long as some of it survives and enough of the other plants and animals survive, the coral can come back if the negative influences are reduced sufficiently. In some cases, the coral is gone, but may be replaced by other life. This may happen with a lower diversity, but at least the area isn’t dead. In the worst cases, as the coral dies, other species exploit the remaining resources, but as the resources are used up the diversity shrinks and eventually most life departs. The hope comes from understanding what triggers the various scenarios so we know what to do with each patch of bleached coral.
“Increasingly, we’re in the science of studying how communities die and the stages of death.” – Hannah Nelson