Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Places in news: Iriomote Island


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Iriomote Island , Coral Bleaching

Mains level: NA

Central Idea

  • A notable example of colony resilience during a bleaching event is found near Japan’s Iriomote Island, where a colony bleached in 2016 exhibited signs of recovery by 2020.

About Iriomote Island

  • Iriomote Island is a picturesque island located in the Yaeyama Islands, part of Okinawa Prefecture in Japan.
  • It is the largest and southernmost inhabited island in the Yaeyama archipelago.
  • With its lush jungles, mangrove forests, and diverse wildlife, Iriomote Island is often referred to as the “Galapagos of the East.”
  • It is home to the Iriomote Yamaneko, or Iriomote cat, which is a critically endangered species of wildcat found only on this island.
  • The dense mangrove forests along the island’s rivers and estuaries serve as an important habitat for numerous species of birds, fish, and other wildlife.
  • To preserve the island’s unique ecosystem and cultural heritage, Iriomote Island is part of the Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park.

Back2Basics: Coral Reefs and Coral Bleaching


  • Corals are marine invertebrates that form colonies of polyps, which multiply and create reef structures.
  • Hard corals extract calcium carbonate to build hard exoskeletons, while soft corals add their skeletons to create coral reefs.
  • Corals have a mutually beneficial relationship with single-celled algae called zooxanthellae.
  • The zooxanthellae provide food and nutrients through photosynthesis, while corals provide a home and essential nutrients.
  • The zooxanthellae give corals their vibrant colors.

Understanding Coral Bleaching

  • Causes of Bleaching: Environmental stressors like temperature changes, pollution, and high ocean acidity lead to coral bleaching.
  • Bleaching Process: Stressed corals expel the zooxanthellae, revealing their pale exoskeletons and disrupting the symbiotic relationship.
  • Impacts of Bleaching: Severe and prolonged bleaching events can result in coral death and the loss of biodiversity.

Climate Change’s Impact on Coral Reefs

  • Warming Seas: Rising carbon emissions and greenhouse gases have caused increased global warming, resulting in warmer ocean temperatures.
  • Mass Bleaching: The frequency and intensity of mass bleaching events have risen in recent decades due to climate change.
  • Projections: Even with greenhouse gas reduction efforts, temperatures are expected to rise by 1.5°C to 2°C by the end of the century.

Significance of Coral Reefs

  • Biodiversity Hotspots: Coral reefs support over 25% of marine biodiversity despite covering only 1% of the seafloor.
  • Economic Value: Reefs contribute $2.7 trillion annually through trade, tourism, and employment opportunities.
  • Environmental Protection: Coral reefs provide habitat and serve as a natural defense against storm waves.
  • Regeneration Potential: Dead reefs can recover if sufficient fish species graze on the weeds that settle on dead corals, although the process takes several years.

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