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As the world faces the harsh consequences of climate change and global warming, fish communities in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are losing color due to such harmful consequences. According to a recent Australian study, fishes may lose even more color as the oceans warm up, and corals continue to bleach. The reds, yellows, and green colors of coral reefs are also starting to fade due to bleaching events. A study recently published in Global Change Biology monitored the alterations in fish community coloration and the environments they live in.
According to ecologist Chris Hemingson and his James Cook University co-workers, coral reefs in the future may not be as colorful as it is today. Their research suggests that coral reefs may be at a transformation point and might lose their color every year. The study examined details and figures around the coral colonies on Orpheus Island, located in the largest living structure on Earth- The Great Barrier Reef. The researchers inspected the variety of colors in the fish communities found around healthy coral reefs and compared it with other areas experiencing the effects of global warming, algae influx, and other impacts over 27 years.
A disaster has affected the world’s largest coral reef for decades now. An increase in bleaching events is predicted in the coming years. Only 2 percent of the Great Barrier Reef is currently safe from bleaching events that have affected other ecosystems for over 30 years. A species’ color and its environment are directly linked to one another. Color is essential to fish. They use their bright colors to attract males and their neutral colors to hide from predators. Bleaching events drive away colorful fish, leaving them more vulnerable, endangered, and habitat-less.
Corals with numerous branches, known as Branching Corals, provide shelter to fish. Thus, the bleaching of corals ultimately impacts the survival of species. However, it is not the end of coral reefs. The structures may continue to survive and adapt to warmer temperatures. But colorful fish communities would become rare in the years to come. According to Hemingson, people may begin to experience grief as fish communities and corals are lost. Scientists and researchers studying the crisis call it ‘ecological grief’. The grief experienced by people can serve as a motivational tool that inspires people to take action and conserve the remaining coral reefs.