Problems with how scientists communicate with the media and in how reefs’ health is assessed have created a skewed public understanding of coral bleaching, according to a new study.
Coral bleaching is a widespread phenomenon in which corals lose their vivid colours. It’s a major concern to conservationists, as it can be triggered by rapid environmental change and sometimes presages the death of whole reefs, along with the complex ecosystems they support.
But the researchers suggest we need to take a more complex view of the matter – bleaching isn’t always a bad thing. ‘We go out to Indonesia twice a year, and in spring when the waters are warmest the reefs are always bleached,’ says Dr David Suggett, a marine biologist at the University of Essex’s Coral Reef Research Unit and co-author of the paper, published in Global Change Biology.