Airport Pool (during bleaching)

In early 2015, coral bleaching started in the Airport Pool on Tutuila. This image shows the staghorn corals in the midst of the severe bleaching event. Prolonged, elevated water temperatures have stressed the corals to the point of expelling their symbiotic algae. In healthy corals, this algae gives color to coral tissues while also providing coral polyps with food through the process of photosynthesis. Once the algae is expelled, the corals' white calcium carbonate skeleton is visible through the transparent coral tissue, giving it this “bleached” appearance. If the water temperatures stay too high for too long, and the corals do not re-recruit their algae, they may starve and die. (Image 2 of 3-part series)