The most comprehensive survey to date of the coral bleaching phenomenon and its effect on the future of the world's coral reefs has been published in a book edited by two senior AIMS scientists. Dr Madeleine van Oppen and Dr Janice Lough have brought together years of research and broad current thinking into their new book Coral Bleaching: Patterns, Processes, Causes and Consequences , published by Springer.
This book fills a niche by bringing together available scientific information on coral bleaching at different space and time scales from the deep geological record through to future projections.
Mass coral bleaching is caused by higher sea surface temperatures disrupting the symbiotic relationship between the coral animal and the single-celled photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae that live in the coral's tissues. These algae give the coral its colours and supply it with food. When the seas warm, the zooxanthellae are lost and the coral appears white, possibly leading to death.
Bleaching on a small scale is not new, since it can be caused by a variety of localised stresses. What is new is the large-scale, whole-reef bleaching seen episodically since 1998 that has been caused by recent warming of the oceans.
A significant amount of marine science research has been devoted to this phenomenon in the past decade around the world, including at AIMS.
By focusing on the many facets of the coral bleaching phenomenon, the most immediate consequence of a changing climate for coral reefs, the new book builds upon recent research that highlights the vulnerability of coral reefs in a changing climate and provides a complete guide to current thinking on coral bleaching.