Gulf of Martaban Considered for Ramsar List; Problems of Coral Bleaching in Andaman Sea16.5N 97.0E
While this image focuses on the Gulf of Martaban, in southern Myanmar, more of the Andaman Sea can be observed in the full image. The gulf is currently being considered to be added to the Ramsar list of Wetlands of International Importance. Reasons for including the Gulf of Martaban include the fact that it supports a number of vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered species, including 50-70 spoon-billed sandpipers and more than 36 species of wading birds.
While the gulf is looking at increased environmental protection, other parts of the Andaman Sea are facing degradation. Coral reefs in the Andaman Sea, throughout the length and breadth of the Andaman group of islands, are losing their colour, owing to extensive bleaching. Experts say global warming is to blame, and that the bleaching problem in the area has existed since the late 1990s. Though a partial recovery has been observed, bleaching of coral reefs remains, nevertheless, a matter of grave concern since the damaged reefs will disturb the delicate ecological balance of the archipelago.
Coral bleaching occurs when there is a disturbance in the delicate symbiotic relationship between corals, which are living creatures, and the microscopic algae (zooxanthellae) they host. Both draw nutrients from each other for survival, and the coral’s beautiful colours are due to the zooxanthellae residing inside them. When a disturbance occurs, the zooxanthellae is ejected from the corals, leaving the white calcium carbonate of their skeletons visible – a phenomenon known as coral bleaching.