Monday, September 6, 2010

Kaboom!…a Bloom

Exmouth, Australia

Whether they are brought on by shifting daylight, pouring rains or lunar cycles blooms are simply nature’s greatest expression of life. They take place in one form or another wherever ecosystems are still permitted to ignite. Wildflowers are often the opening act and put on show-stopping displays from Anza Borrego and Appalachia all the way to Australia.

It is also in the sunburned continent that one of the most memorable blooms takes place- but it is not within Australias’s dry, outback interior. Rather it’s off shore Australia that sees a pulse of life that clouds the waters, forcing all to notice. It is the blooming of coral reefs.

While the Great Barrier Reef does indeed have periodic blooms, it is on Western Australia’s Ningaloo reef where a bloom is on top of the natural marquee. Here in March and April the moon triggers an eruption of activity from the living corals that respond by sending out clouds of reproductum into the sea. Larval corals soon dominate the brine followed closely by their most formidable predator. Whale Sharks are teased from the deep and build their bulk on these seasonal coral blooms. But these are sharks in only the cartilaginous sense, as their otherwise calm demeanor invites snorkelers along for a swim. It is in this sense; along our largest fish and among are most numerous beings that anyone can appreciate how a bloom impacts life.

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