Coral, in the 21st Century

The sun beat down upon the sand as I ungracefully exited the rental car and began the descent into the bay. I readily identified two species of birds waddling around the parking lot — both introduced species; a Zebra Dove from southeast Asia, and a Red-Crested Cardinal from South America.

My blurry picture that I took five years ago, age ten, of a Red-Crested Cardinal.
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
Bleached coral. Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash

Warming waters

Average Global Sea Surface Temperature, 1880–2015. Plotted as an anomaly (+ anomaly means higher than baseline, here the 1971–2000 avg.) NOAA, 2016
Coral polyps by Derek Keats / CC BY 2.0. Inside these polyps are the zooxanthellae.

Ocean acidification

Often called ‘Climate Change’s Evil Twin’, ocean acidification, or the lowering of the ocean’s average pH, goes hand in hand with rising carbon emissions.

Atmospheric CO² and ocean pH as a function of time. This data, mirrored in other oceanography stations around the world, was collection just a few hundred kilometers north of Hanauma Bay at he the ALOHA research center. pCO² is the partial pressure of carbon dioxide per μatm, or microatmospheres, a unit of pressure. Go figure.
the back of Biosphere 2 by kanu101 / CC BY 2.0
Castella Aragonese by Mannafly // CC BY-SA 4.0. The waters surrounding the island are carbon-rich due to the volcanic vents in the area. The area surrounding the vents become a helpful ‘time machine’ into what high-carbon oceanic environments could look like in the future.

Plastic pollution

Plastic pollution carries a plethora of threats to coral. First, the most obvious, the physical damage caused by plastic-coral contact, but more subtly, increased disease rates within populations.


Overfishing can have a multi-pronged effect on coral reefs. Fishing gear (and worse, bottom trawling) can entangle and destroy coral or even whole colonies of coral.

A fishing trawler. by Kumaravel / CC BY 2.0

15 y old learning about machine learning, as well as a lifelong naturalist. Climate activist in Vancouver. Writer. Visit me @

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