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Endangered: Coral Reefs

In 2030, almost 90 percent of our coral reefs could be in serious danger...What can we do to help?

Imagine scuba-diving in the shallow waters of the ocean and seeing the beautiful variation of colors on every single unique reef fish, giant clam, lobster, seahorse, and sea turtle swimming above the vibrant corals. Coral reefs are home to all of those amazing creatures and many more. They depend on the reefs for survival—without them, those species wouldn't exist. 

What is coral?

Coral is made up of tiny marine animals containing nutrients called polyps, which are in very close relation to sea anemones and jellyfish. These polyps go on to colonize together and it is then encased in calcium carbonate to form a stone-like structure which protects the polyps on the inside. Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on this planet while taking up a small 0.1 percent of the ocean's surface, they provide a home to nearly 25 percent of all marine life. 

Why is coral so important?

Aside from being the most diverse ecosystem, there are many important functions of a coral reef, such as protecting our coastlines when powerful waves and damaging storms hit (many islands would not exist without them), providing many organisms with a habitat, helping the ocean recycle nutrients by being the source of nitrogen and other nutrients that are essential to the marine life. To humans, we depend on them. Fish spawn and spend a lot of time in the reef before venturing out into the rest of the sea, causing the fishing industry to rely on the coral reef as a source. Coral growth patterns are able to provide us with clear, scientific events such as major storms and human impacts. Not only that, but coral reefs generate a minimum of $29.8 billion dollars every year to the USA, with a maximum of $375 billion through tourism. A healthy ecosystem provides us with natural resources such as the food and water we consume, tons and tons of diverse species, recreational activities, and the services we depend on like recycling, the breakdown of pollutants, the creation of soil, the purification of our air and water. Coral reefs are something humans should be taking care of. Human impact is significant. 

Why are coral reefs in danger?

Coral reefs are in immense danger. Coral mining, pollution, overfishing, blast fishing (using explosives to catch fish), digging canals for easy access into islands and bays, disease, and warming oceans. Approximately 60 percent of coral reefs may be in danger from human activities. Environmental factors are affecting atmospheric changes, ocean acidification, viruses, dust storms (blowing pollutants in the water), algal bloom, along with many, many more contributing factors. Visually, if you went scuba diving, you would be able to see how sick the corals truly are. We are so used to seeing the bright yellow and pink corals on the reef, but they were found to be turning white, almost as if they were “bleached.” Coral bleaching is caused by extra sunlight and warm ocean waters—Thanks to climate change.

Note that the coral reefs are faded, nearly white as they have been bleached. We are used to seeing the vibrant, colorful structures. 

In 2008, a worldwide study estimated that we have already lost approximately 19 percent of coral reefs and an additional 17 percent is likely to be lost within the next ten years. Only 46 percent of reefs are considered to be in good health. 

What can we do to help?

We don’t need to be scientists to help the coral reefs. The smallest actions could help the ocean so much! Just using less water in your daily tasks, reducing the amount of pollution in the air by taking a bus, riding a bike or walking, learning how to properly dispose of your trash, or even planting a tree could go a long way when saving the coral reefs. If you are in the area of a beach clean-up, participate! Most importantly, you should spread the word so more people are aware of this dreadful situation. Without coral reefs, the reef itself will die, the marine life feeding and spawning there will be in extreme danger. It’s predicted that, by 2050, coral reefs could be extinct! Lots of living things (including us humans) are under lots of stress, and this causes us to be more susceptible to problems with our health—corals are no exception. Coral reefs are just like us! Reduce your carbon footprint not only to save energy, but to save our precious coral reefs, as well! 

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Endangered: Coral Reefs
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