Coral bleaching

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The process in which, under environmental stress, a coral colony expels the microscopic algae (zooxanthellae) that live in symbiosis with their host organisms (polyps), resulting in a whitened appearance of the affected coral colony.

Coral bleaching occurs as a result of changes in the living conditions of coral, such as an extreme increase or extreme decrease in water temperature, overexposure to sunlight, runoff, and pollution, and extreme low tides.

If the stress-causing change is short-term, coral can survive bleaching, but if it is long-term, coral will eventually die.


WWF website
NOAA: What is coral bleaching?