Turtle Feeding Habitats Unaffected By Coral Bleaching – Expert

Posted on July 27, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

(Bernama) — The coral bleaching phenomenon which poses a threat to coral reefs in peninsular Malaysia does not affect the turtle feeding habitats, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu Marine Science Department lecturer Dr Juanita Joseph said today.

This is because green turtles eat seaweed while the hawksbill turtles feed on soft corals and crustaceans, she said.

“Currently, coral bleaching in several islands in the peninsula have not affected turtle-feeding areas,” she told Bernama, adding that it would only present a problem if the number of crustaceans in the area declined.

Local dailies reported last month that all islands off Terengganu, including Redang, where turtles feed, were critically affected by the condition.

However, the waters off Sabah were not hit by the phenomenon, especially the popular diving spots of Pulau Sipadan and Pulau Mabul in Semporna which are among Malaysia’s turtle feeding areas.

Dr Juanita said turtle feeding areas in Pulau Redang were also unaffected by the bleaching, and there had been an increase in turtle landings although their number was small.

She said the bleaching condition could be attributed to many factors such as pollution, but it could also be caused by increased water temperature which kills a type of algae called Zooxanthellae.

“The green pigment of coral reefs is actually Zooxanthellae. When the algae dies, the coral dies too and its colour changes to white.

“The coral reef ecosystem is a productive one and when the coral dies, all other organisms in the area will be affected, especially fish,” she said.

Dr Juanita said coral bleaching was a frequently occurring phenomenon but scientists had yet to figure out how to overcome the problem.

She said dead corals would usually recover but required a long period of time to return to its normal state.

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