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Insights: Marine Heatwaves & Coral Bleaching in Lakshadweep



  May 07, 2024

Insights: Marine Heatwaves & Coral Bleaching in Lakshadweep



1. What are Marine Heatwaves?

Marine heatwaves are prolonged periods of exceptionally high ocean temperatures that can significantly exceed local historical averages.

2. What causes Coral Bleaching?

Coral bleaching occurs when elevated water temperatures force corals to expel the symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues, turning them white and leaving them vulnerable to starvation and disease.

3. How are Marine Heatwaves detected?

These events are identified using the Degree Heating Week (DHW) metric, which measures the accumulation of thermal stress over time, exceeding typical maximum temperatures.

4. What has been the impact on Lakshadweep?

In Lakshadweep, recent heatwaves have raised sea temperatures by 1 degree Celsius above the norm, leading to widespread coral bleaching, affecting marine habitats and local fisheries.

5. What are the broader implications of these events?

Beyond environmental damage, marine heatwaves threaten local economies, especially tourism and fishing industries, and can lead to long-term ecological shifts, impacting coastal and marine biodiversity.

6. What future trends are predicted for the region?

Climate models and studies suggest that the Indian Ocean will continue to warm, potentially increasing the frequency and intensity of marine heatwaves, which could lead to more frequent and severe coral bleaching events.

LAKSHADWEEP ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS

The Lakshadweep archipelago is currently facing a significant environmental crisis due to marine heatwaves, leading to extensive coral bleaching across its reefs. Here are the key points to understand the situation:

1. Current Conditions and Causes:

Since October 2023, the Lakshadweep Sea has recorded sea temperatures about 1 degree Celsius above normal. This increase in temperature, partly due to shifting ocean currents, has resulted in a severe coral bleaching event. The Degree Heating Week (DHW) indicator has shown that accumulated heat stress in the region has crossed critical thresholds, exacerbating the risk to coral health.

2. Consequences of Coral Bleaching:

Coral bleaching significantly weakens corals by causing them to expel the algae (zooxanthellae) that provide them with food through photosynthesis. While bleached corals are not immediately dead, they are more susceptible to disease and mortality if temperatures remain high and recovery conditions are not met.

3. Wider Ecological Impacts:

The repercussions of these heatwaves extend beyond coral loss. They also affect other vital marine habitats such as seagrass beds and kelp forests, which face similar threats of impaired photosynthesis and reduced growth rates. The degradation of these ecosystems can lead to a decrease in biodiversity and a breakdown of the food web that supports fish populations and other marine life.

4. Socioeconomic Implications:

The environmental degradation poses threats to the livelihoods of local communities who depend on fisheries and tourism. The decline in healthy coral reefs and other marine ecosystems can lead to reduced fish stocks and diminished tourist appeal, impacting economic activities and food security in the region.

5. Future Outlook:

Studies forecast that the Indian Ocean will continue warming at a rapid pace, leading to more frequent and intense marine heatwaves. This trend could result in increased instances of coral bleaching and a continual shift in marine biodiversity patterns. Additionally, rising sea levels and enhanced coastal erosion pose



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