How corals can suf­fer when water too warm

New doc­u­men­tary, by di­rec­tor of 2012’s “Chas­ing Ice,” to de­but Fri­day on Net­flix in NYC, L.A.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Erin Blake­more Net­flix via The Wash­ing­ton Post

Coral bleach­ing turns col­or­ful reefs into eerie waste­lands. A new doc­u­men­tary shows the stark truth be­hind bleach­ing, taking you un­der­wa­ter to wit­ness what warm­ing waters do to corals.

“Chas­ing Coral” is di­rec­tor Jeff Or­lowski’s fol­low- up to his 2012 film, “Chas­ing Ice,” which doc­u­mented melt­ing glaciers in sober­ing time-lapse. This time, Or­lowski and an in­ter­na­tional team headed into the ocean for views of pale, aban­doned reefs that once teemed with life.

The cul­prit: coral bleach­ing, which oc­curs when warm water puts stress on corals. Ris­ing tem­per­a­tures cause the corals to ex­pel the al­gae that pro­vide their vivid col­ors. As a re­sult, they be­come ghosts of their for­mer selves, sus­cep­ti­ble to dis­eases, re­pro­duc­tive prob­lems and death.

Cli­mate change drives coral bleach­ing, and in 2015 the world ex­pe­ri­enced its third doc­u­mented bleach­ing event, which wiped out huge swaths of corals. Or­lowski gath­ered more than 650 hours of un­der­wa­ter footage of van­ish­ing coral for the film.

The re­sult is half el­egy, half call to ac­tion. And although news of the likely end of the coral bleach­ing event is promis­ing, the film is a re­minder that warm­ing waters pose a se­ri­ous threat to the corals that sur­vived that tur­moil.

Coral reefs’ oth­er­worldly ecosys­tems are eas­ily over­looked be­cause you need to go un­der­wa­ter to see them. With its ar­rest­ing views of healthy corals and their life­less coun­ter­parts, “Chas­ing Coral” makes it im­pos­si­ble to look away.

The film pre­mieres Fri­day in New York and Los An­ge­les and on Net­flix.

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