Lakshadweep is most severely affected by coral bleaching on India’s coastline.

Key Highlights

Extent of Bleaching

  • Lakshadweep, a Union Territory of India composed of 36 islands, has experienced severe coral bleaching and it has been confirmed by scientists. 
  • The ongoing global coral bleaching event (GCBE4), has proven to be the most severe on record, surpassing previous events like GCBE3. 
  • According to US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports over 70.7% of coral reefs worldwide have faced bleaching-level heat stress since January 2023.

Local Observations

  • Scientists at Lakshadweep’s Department of Science & Technology, reported that this year’s bleaching has impacted 84.6% of the coral reefs. 
  • This marks one of the most severe events compared to those in 1998, 2010, and 2020.

Impact on Coral Species

  • Significant impacts were noted on coral species such as Porites cylindrical, Porites lobata and Montipora foliosa. 
  • Even resilient species like Acropora digitifera and Pocillopora grandis showed signs of bleaching, highlighting the severity of the current event. 

What is a coral reef?

  • Coral reefs are large underwater structures composed of the skeletons of colonial marine invertebrates (Polyps) called coral.
  • Coral reefs in India are found in a lot of areas including the Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay, Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands.

What is Coral Bleaching?

  • Coral bleaching occurs when reefs lose their color and turn white due to the expulsion or death of zooxanthellae, the algae that provide nutrients and vibrant colors to corals (Polyps).
  • When corals become stressed by climate change, rising water temperatures, pollution, changes in light levels, and sedimentation, they expel zooxanthellae, leading to bleaching

Role of Coral Reefs

  • Coral reefs in Lakshadweep are vital for supporting diverse marine life, protecting shorelines from erosion and storms, providing livelihoods through fishing, and attracting tourists.

Recovery and Outlook

  • While a slight reduction in water temperatures with the onset of the monsoon has offered temporary relief but it emphasizes that long-term coral recovery remains uncertain. 
  • Continued cooler conditions and the absence of further stressors (which increase temperatures) are crucial for their sustained health.

Measures to conserve Coral reefs

  • Marine Protected area
  • Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL):
  • International Coral Reef Initiative
  • Coral Reef Restoration
  • International Agreements: The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C, ideally 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels.

Also Read:

Indian migrants in West Asia