Bleaching corals - are they food-starved?

Debbie MacKenzie debimack at
Mon May 7 13:21:20 EDT 2001

Hi coral researchers,

Do you see a clear difference between what is happening with the "mass
coral bleaching" and what you would expect to see if the corals were
nutrient-starved? It looks very similar to me.

Might the patchy availability of food for reef corals help explain the
oft-noted "patchiness" of bleaching episodes?

Lowering of the tolerance thresholds for light and heat (the thing that
appears to be happening?) is an expected result of food-starvation. As is
lowered immunity to infectious diseases. Do you suspect malnutrition as a
common underlying cause?

Have you considered fishing as an independent risk factor in mass bleaching
events (and emerging coral diseases)? Might fishing have had the cumulative
result of lowering the total biomass available for recycling, and therefore
ultimately caused food-starvation in corals?

I've just posted a fairly lengthy discussion of this issue on my website at and would greatly appreciate
feedback from any of you. The wider theme of the site, the possibility of
an overall "starving marine ecosystem," is summarized on the main page:

Debbie MacKenzie

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