COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — The ocean, 71% of Earth’s surface and home to numerous species of different colors, shapes and sizes can be seen as a mystery, with its depth and darkness. 

Roughly 97% of the worlds water is found in the ocean and it acts just like the human circulatory system — the system responsible for regulating the human body. The ocean is responsible for regulating Earth’s climate. 

As temperatures begin to rise, corals, an important part of the ocean, begin to suffer. The recent rise in ocean temperatures and coral reef bleaching in the Gulf of Mexico has scientists concerned.

“Corals and the organisms that they are associated with have a very, very low thermal tolerance. So they usually live in environments that have low thermal fluctuations,” said Dr. Moises Bernal, associate professor at Auburn University. 

Corals are rock-like structures that contain polyps, inside of these polyps are tiny organisms that allow the corals to supplement its nutrition through Photosynthesis. When the ocean temperatures reaches a certain degree, the corals are unable to provide nutrients. They will eventually turn white and die.

“One of the things that, people don’t realize that coral reefs occupy less than one percent of the ocean body but they harbor more than 25% of all marine species. If we don’t have coral reefs tomorrow, 25% of ocean life is going to be affected.”

Humans will also feel the impact of coral reef bleaching. Coral reefs act like a natural “break” for waves and Tsunamis. 

The reefs absorb energy causing less of an impact to the coast. Without these, we’ll likely see more coastal erosion and flooding which will cost billions of dollars. 

Scientist are however trying to save coral reefs by using a technique called “genetic rescue” in which they take the organisms into a lab, re-create them, and then replant them in the sea. This is often a lengthy and expensive process. 

According to Dr. Bernal, the only way to truly save coral reefs and preserve them for the future is to change the way we think about climate not just locally but world-wide.