What do you know about Coral Reefs?

by Ivy-Maria Williams

Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. These colonies of coral polyps (known as animal who are primarily responsible for building reefs) not only bring beauty to this earth, but help consume carbon monoxide from toxic human activity.  As a collective, they contribute to the welfare of other terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems as well as humans.

Why reefs are important to land:

  • Protect coastlines from tropical storms and erosion
  • Kelp forests in reefs capture 20 times more carbon than land forests
  • Certain species can be used as fertilizer
  • Can lessen wave energy by up to 97%, protecting us from tsunamis and storms

 Why reefs are important to the sea:

  • 25% of the oceans fish depend on coral reefs to survive
  • Home to the most diverse and plentiful species
  • They restore parts of the ocean that don’t receive enough oxygen to sustain life
  • Recycle waste and are self-sustaining even in marine deserts
  • Provide oxygen

 Why reefs are important to humans:

  • Provide jobs for local communities
  • Source of healthy food for at least 500 million people worldwide
  • Have an estimated global value of 8.3 trillion dollars each year
  • Certain extracts can be used for medicine

Why are coral reefs dying and what happens if they do?

Due to the mindless actions that humans incorporate into their daily lives, coral reefs are harmed.  Overfishing, dynamite and cyanide use, live coral collecting, leaking fuel and paint, and even wearing harmful sunscreen in the ocean are specific harms to the reefs.

The after effect is algae overproducing therefore changing the native ecosystem entirely. This can also decrease the success of reproduction in corals, which makes them die slowly.

Another rising factor is the every so common: Greenhouse gas(es)  and pollution. When ocean temperatures rise, storm patterns change, leading to the bleaching of corals and making them more susceptible to destruction during storms. If coral reefs die out because of our carelessness, countless organisms will die and the Earth will be damaged far beyond repair. Our well-being will be in question, also. 

How are people saving coral reefs and how you can help?

An organization called NOAA helps restore coral reefs by planting nursery-grown corals back to the reefs and making sure habitat is suitable for natural coral growth. Doing this helps build the resilience to threats like climate change. The one way to ensure coral reef protection is to decrease global warming.

Another organization calls themselves the Coral Gardeners. Having a huge celebrity backing, they give you access to adopting a coral reef and keeping track of the re-planting process from start to finish.

We can’t take back the damage that has been done by pollution, but we can change our toxic ways and help the bleached reefs in need. Feeling hands on? Many organizations are waiting for you email that says you would love to become a volunteer.

Coral reefs are essential to the well-being of people and our general ecosystem. Advocating for their protection is advocating for the future of millions of known and unknown species and humanity,

Sources: NOAA / Coral Gardeners / NHM / OSU EDU

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