Crossing over into dangerously hot temperatures, the waters near the Everglades National Park in Florida have reached triple digits. Matching data has been found across the Florida Bay, observing record high temperatures that could, and most likely will, have a major effect on the marine life and coral in the area. The only saving grace these areas experience is that the salinity levels are very low in the summer season, and currently at night temperatures drop up to 10 degrees. But how did these waters reach such high heat?
Lately, the ocean’s or any other body of water’s surface temperature has been increasing, causing concern in scientists, ecologists, marine biologists, and many others. This increase causes the surface water to absorb the excess heat reflected off the GHGs in the atmosphere, eventually having it travel to deeper depths heating up the water below. And because this increase has been occurring for a consistent and significant amount of time, the overall entity of water has increased in temperature, not just the surface. The heat unfortunately has nowhere else to go but down, contaminating the once cooler waters. Now recorded at 101, this abnormality can cause disastrous imbalances among the marine flora and fauna.
The Florida-based Coral Restoration Foundation stated that the recent extreme heat waves have caused ocean temperatures to increase and has contributed to the massive coral die-off and bleaching. Since the 1970s, coral reefs in the Florida, Caribbean and Bahama areas have lost 80% of their coral. And now due to the increase in temperatures, these areas have been experiencing mass bleaching and die-offs of coral. As the water becomes warmer, coral produces and expels reactive oxygen species, zooxanthellae, or algae. Zooxanthellae is photosynthetic and holds the majority of the coral coloration, but during expulsion, the coral's calcium carbonate skeleton is exposed, displaying a white powdery color.
Many marine species are not able to survive in such aggressive heat and overall fluctuating conditions. This can cause a drop in certain species, in turn causing a collapse across a whole ecosystem or more. This is called the “cascading effect,” when coral and other flora are abruptly impacted, shocking their livelihood, it causes a domino, or cascade effect across the rest of the marine life underwater. According to the National Weather Service, Florida has been recently experiencing intense heat waves and facing extreme heat levels. The Miami-Dade County and surrounding areas have been under heat advisories and warnings for 22 days now.
"This is not a partisan issue; everyone will be affected. The climate crisis impacts our way of life and all life on Earth. Hopefully, the dire situation we now face will catalyze broader awareness and stimulate aggressive action to address climate change, triggering greater investment in the restoration and conservation of our planet's life, including our precious coral reefs," said FCRF CEO, R. Scott Winters.