Coral reefs are vital aquatic habitats that provide a significant percentage of Earth’s biodiversity, or various diverse organisms living within a given area. Scientists’ evaluations show that 25% or more of the world’s marine species live around or in a coral reef.
Coral itself is not a plant, as many people mistakenly assume, but rather an animal. There are six thousand species of coral all over Earth, and they live in various places, from shallows to the deepest depths. Corals are colonial organism since they are actually many microorganisms and individual creatures linked together in order to survive. These fascinating creatures are polyps and use ions in seawater to make themselves limestone exoskeletons.
Look What Humans Did Now…...
Seeing that humans (no offense people) began to - in some way, shape, or form - slowly destroy the earth whether it’s the air or the sea, it’s no wonder coral reefs have been affected too. Human-caused, or anthropogenic activities, pose huge issues for coral reefs. Destructive fishing practices, pollution, collecting and selling coral for the market mining coral as a resource for building, and (obviously) climate change all contribute to a ¼ of our planets ecosystem literally and figuratively fading away.
“50% of the Great Barrier Reef is severely damaged, 5% beyond repair”
Pollution is one of the greatest threats to reefs. According to the National Ocean Service (NOAA),
“Land-based runoff and pollutant discharges can result from dredging, coastal development, agricultural and deforestation activities, and sewage treatment plant operations.”
This waste may contain chemicals and other environmentally unfriendly debris. Some pollutants, upon entering the water, cause a rapid growth in organisms that can ‘smother’ corals.
Fuel leakage, paint coatings, and even petroleum are all major contributors to this tragedy. Petroleum spills, as an example, can cause damage especially when a coral is spawning. Because oil floats on the surface of water, its impact on coral is usually not direct. So, oil not only destroys the purity of water, but disrupts the reproduction of polyps, making them more vulnerable.
Well, This Is All Very Inspiring, But - Why Should I Care?
Other than being an earth-compassionate human being, there are plenty of reasons to motivate you to take action. Coral reefs support over five hundred million people around the world via income, food, protection, and more. And though they cover 0.1% of the earth surface, they host the largest number of species, other than rainforests. As per the Coral Reef Alliance;
"They [coral reefs] provide over $375 billion per year in goods and services."
But when corals are assaulted by challenges such as maritime heatwaves, inadequate water quality, contamination, overfishing, and more, their resources and strength will be used for survival and not reproduction.
So…How Can We Help?
There are many things you can do to help save an entire ecosystem (whoa…), these being just a few examples:
1) Diving Responsibly When You Visit Reefs
Coral reef tourism is widely popular, and it is important to make sure that there are still reefs there to enjoy this in the years to come. Making sure you don’t touch the reef and don’t anchor your boat on it. This can damage or kill the animal, which is kind of bad.
2) Wear Sunscreen that is Reef-Friendly
Octinoxate and Oxybenzone re popular ingredients in sunscreen, and also toxic to coral reefs. On the other hand, sunscreen that includes non-nano zinc oxide as their active ingredient doesn’t contribute to coral bleaching, which is as bad as it sounds.
3) Eat Seafood that is NOT Vital for Reef Health
Make sure to research where your seafood comes from – it may be silently destroying an ecosystem. For example, parrotfish is a very vital part of the reef biome, as it eats the algae off of coral and inadvertently cleans the reefs.
4) Volunteer For Beach Cleanups
Its always helpful to volunteer, and since so much of the plastic in our world ends up in the middle of the ocean, cleaning up beaches and the water is extremely helpful in the long run to rescue the reefs.
5) Dispose of Recycle/Trash Properly
Our trash is literally everywhere, the roads beaches, forests parks oceans – now there is even stuff in space from all the stuff we sent up there. If you recycle and dispose of trash the right way, you are in a way saving 25% of the world’s marine species.
6) Be Overall Eco-Friendly
Pollution is a problem everywhere. What we give to Mother Earth comes right back at us and so far, all we are giving her is….nothing good. Overusing fertilizer, using energy, ad other things all come back to haunt us, and now the reefs are being affected too. GO GREEN!!
There are hundreds of thousands of no-profit organizations that are collecting money to save reefs. A dollar here, $10 there, it all counts somewhere. Every penny matters.
8) Spread The Word – Or Share This Great Post :)