One of the goals of The Indiana Reef is to not only highlight the beauty and wonder of the world’s coral reefs, but also to share how these reefs are affected by human actions and natural events. It does not take much environmental change to stress coral reefs. A slight increase in temperature, growing pollution, disease and increased sedimentation all play a part in damaging coral reefs.
The Indiana Reef will have a section dedicated to showing how vibrant reefs are disturbed by these factors in a section of the exhibit known as The Toxic Reef. Volunteers creating these pieces have worked hard to present a reef that visually shows the stress that underwater coral are currently fighting. On some pieces, the colors of yarn are faded and pale while recycled trash pieces are also attached. The fading of color is one way a coral reef reacts to changes in its environment and is the beginning of a process known as bleaching, where sections of the coral begin to die and turns white. The death of coral affects all the organisms that rely on it as a link in the oceanic food chain.
Efforts are underway in many areas in the world to conserve and protect living coral reefs from environmental dangers. Scientists are currently researching how corals in certain areas of the world seem to adapt to environmental changes easier than others with the belief that these stressors may have happened in the past. For more information about coral reefs and bleaching, check out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website.