When you visualize a coral reef, images of brilliant corals, flawless blue water, and dynamic marine creatures ring a bell.
Healthy coral reefs are colorful and extraordinarily biodiverse ecosystems. Indeed, while coral reefs make up about under 1% of the seafloor, they house almost 25% of life in the ocean. No wonder they are also called "the rainforests of the ocean.” However, aside from that, they are significant, both environmentally and economically.
Why are Coral Reefs Important?
Stating that coral reefs give significant benefits to the marine ecosystem is just the icing on the top. Coral reefs are more than just these vibrant colors and beauty.
Coral reefs are home to 25% of all marine species in the world.
Around the world, coral reefs have an essential part in giving food to more than 500 million individuals living on or close to the coast.
Coral reefs offer livelihood to many people in the tourism industry, including hotel laborers, snorkel guides, dive guides, and that's only the tip of the iceberg.
They fill in as natural marine barriers that shield coastal communities from high-impact waves during typhoons, hurricanes, and tsunamis.
Essential therapeutic elements have been found (are as yet being found) in a few marine species that possess coral reefs.
A study was conducted in 2012 contrasting the financial worth of reefs and other marine ecosystems. Corals were ranked first with an estimated value of $ 500,000 per hectare in the United States. A well-supervised reef in the Indian and Pacific oceans can give 3 to 5 tons of fish and shellfish per .38 square mile each year.
But the reality is….
Unfortunately, this charming picture is frequently different from the brutal reality seen by numerous coral reefs.
From one side of the world to the other, these sensitive reef ecosystems are turning out to be progressively more without color and life because of the adverse consequences of anthropogenic (artificial) environmental change.
Coral Reefs are in Danger
Now, coral reefs are deteriorating and dying at an alarming rate because of human and natural pressing factors that range from overfishing and degradation to ocean acidification and climate change.
Researchers have assessed that 75% of the world's corals are in danger and 10% have as of now died. Below are the worldwide threats that these most significant living structures on the planet are facing.
Once coral and zooxanthellae can't keep up with their symbiotic relationship, coral bleaching occurs. For this situation, coral discharge zooxanthellae from their polyps and hence lose their algal pigmentation. Since zooxanthellae give the food and color of corals, the ejection of these algae will prompt a white and "bleached" appearance.
Factors that lead to coral bleaching:
Ocean Warming: It is the main factor in coral bleaching. Open oceans absorb almost all of the excess heat resulting from the greenhouse gas effect, leading to increased water temperatures. An increase of just 1ºC above-average ocean temperature can result in coral bleaching.
Ocean Acidification: The sea absorbs carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and makes the sea's pH drop, prompting ocean acidification. This decline in pH has unfortunate results, particularly for oceanic carbonate organisms like coral reefs. This phenomenon lessens their capacity to construct their skeletons, making them considerably more prone to erosion.
Sunscreen: Shockingly, sunscreen likewise causes coral bleaching. It is assessed that 4000 to 6000 metric tons of sunscreen consistently washes off of beachgoers and is left in the sea. Sunscreen can be destructive to corals because numerous sunscreens contain chemicals that are harmful to zooxanthellae.
The growing demand for fish has prompted the overfishing of reef species. Overfishing of specific species can influence the ecological equilibrium and biodiversity of the reef. For instance, overly fishing herbivorous fish can result in high degrees of algal development that can choke out coral.
Destructive Fishing Methods
One of the most accessible means to catch fish is using cyanide and dynamite. But these practices can't target one species. Specifically, they harm everything and permanently so where they are used. Harming coral reefs affects the whole reef ecosystem, and along these lines, promptly affects the livelihood of related anglers.
Tourism is one of the biggest industries and produces a lot of income for nations. When unregulated, tourism tensions can harm the general environment: reckless divers, unsecured boat anchors, hotels discharging untreated wastewater (polluting the water, making sedimentation, while empowering the development of algae that rival corals).
Pollution from inland human activities can harm coral reefs, especially when moved by rivers into coastal waters. Nutrient enhancement (eutrophication) advances the growth of algae. Macro-algae then inhabit the substrates used by coral larvae. Once these algae multiply, the reef can't recover, and this case is often irreversible. Whether it is plastic or chemical, pollution has extreme results on marine ecosystems, which is hard to recuperate.
Trade for Aquariums
Approximately 20 million tropical fish and 12 million hard corals are sold annually, primarily to private people (UN, 2003). The majority of the marine aquariums are provided with species caught in nature. Dangers from this trade include using cyanide for collection, over-abuse of target species, and significant degrees of mortality related to poor maintenance and transportation.
In 10 years, the rate of diseases created in corals seems to have expanded significantly, adding to the deterioration of coral reef habitats throughout the world.
Species, similar to the Acanthaster planci, that, because of human activity, have been moved, purposely or accidentally, to regions where they don't usually exist are called "invasive species." This is frequently because of an absence of predators and parasites that assume a regulatory part. These species would then be able to multiply quickly by fundamentally adjusting the ecosystem. The harm brought about by these species can be destructive: modification of ecosystem elements, loss of biodiversity, a decrease of environment strength, and loss of resources.
How Can We Save Coral Reefs?
Coral reefs give significant ecosystem benefits since they protect coastal regions, are a wellspring of food and medications and are used as recreational spaces. Though a few species in coral reefs can adjust to anthropogenic environmental change dangers, it remains critical for us to protect our coral reef environments effectively.
We should do as such not just because reefs provide us with such countless advantages, but since we must protect the marine lives that depend on healthy reef environments for survival. It is estimated that 90% of corals are endangered and could disappear by 2050. There are many ways to stop that from happening.
The less water you use, the less runoff and wastewater will pollute the oceans. Build wastewater gardens (environmental waste recycling systems) in your home, school, or community. Every simple thing you do to aid with saving coral reefs has an impact!
2. Use environmental or natural fertilizers in your gardens and on your lawns.
Even if you live thousands of miles from a coral reef, chemicals and pesticides flow into the water system, contaminate the sea, and can go on sea currents and flows at significant stretches, doing danger to coral reefs and other ocean life.
3. Plant a Tree.
Plant a tree and you will lessen runoff into the seas. You will likewise add to changing global warming of our planet and the rising temperatures of our waters.
4. Arrange a seashore clean-up.
Plastic contaminates sea waters and damages coral reefs and other ocean life.
5. Observe safe diving and snorkeling.
When you visit a coral reef, observe reef-safe diving and swimming. Try not to stand, contact, or anchor your boat on the reef.
6. Spread awareness.
Please talk with your family, friends, and neighbors and inform them concerning coral reefs, the rainforest of the ocean, and explain to them about the coral reef situation. Also, provide them information on the reefs through books, videos, and social media. Invite them that they can get involved and make a difference in conserving corals.
7. Communicate with the government.
Keep in touch with your government representatives and request they make a move to protect coral reefs, stop sewage pollution of our seas, increase marine protected regions and find ways to change climate change.
8. Participate in an environmental organization.
Support and volunteer for environmental organizations that protect your area's coral reefs, oceans, rivers, lakes, or different waters. Clean water is significant all over the place. All watersheds influence the seas and, in the long run, the coral reefs.
9. Educate yourself more.
Please find out about coral reefs, their astounding biodiversity, and the exceptional job they play as couriers for the health of our seas and our world.
10. Opt for a reef-friendly sunscreen.
It would help if you were mindful while using sunscreen. Some typical sunscreen ingredients, including oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been demonstrated to be toxic to corals or even kill corals. Sunscreens that use non-nano zinc oxide as their active ingredients don't add to coral bleaching. Even better, cut down on sunscreen use by wearing a long-sleeved shirt or rash guard to prevent the burn from the sun.
The world is ever-changing and growing. And the information above couldn’t explain more about how coral reefs create a significant impact on our lives. If humanity takes extra care for the future generation, saving the corals would mean a lot.
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