A hurricane can destroy a coral reef. The fragile superstructure created by millions of marine microorganisms does not fare well when slammed by high winds and powerful waves. But coral reefs worldwide have bigger fish to fry, so to speak, most notably the bleaching brought on by warmer waters. In that case, it appears that hurricanes are actually a boon.
Marine biologist Derek Manzello of the University of Miami and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reviewed the water temperature records surrounding five coral reefs off the coast of Florida. In the summer of 2005, warm sea waters caused these reefs and others across the Caribbean to expel the algae that normally gives them their color and much of their food, leaving them white as a skeleton and often starvingâ€”a process called bleaching.