Zooxanthellae and Coral Bleaching
Zooxanthellae colloquially represent symbiodinium, which are known to be mutualistic endosymbionts. They are known to occur in high levels of density and are algae in nature. They are plant cells that exist in the polyps of corals (Salm 16). Both the plant cells and the coral exist in the environment through mutualistic relationship in that the coral polyps are known to produce carbon dioxide and by products of water for the process of photosynthesis. This is taken up by the plant cells for execution while they produce lipids, sugars, glucose, amino acids and oxygen that the coral polyps use for growth and intracellular respiration. During the process of recycling of these by products, production of the driving force for productivity and growth of coral is realized. Thus, the mutual benefits of the plant cells of zooxanthellae and coral are necessary for their existence in the environment.
Coral bleaching involves the release of algae cells with the colony taking on a white appearance due to the physical stress of the coral. When the coral go for long periods without zooxanthellae, the coral bleaching can lead to its death. This is more profound when there is rise in temperatures and that of the ocean waters. When temperature increases, zooxanthellae are inhibited in their intracellular respiration mechanism leading to lower production of the by-products. This cannot be utilized by the coral, which increase the physical stress of their bodies. Due to the increase in the release of algae cells, the coral bleaching increases at a greater magnitude. Climatic changes have increased the rate of expulsion of the zooxanthellae from the coral due to the increased coral bleaching.
Salm, Rodney. Coral Reef Resilience and Resistance to Bleaching. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, the World Conservation Union, 2006. Print.
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