So, Corals. These incredible structures occupy a very small area of the seabed, and are found mainly in shallow areas of the tropical regions. However, this limited area is one of the most important habitats of the oceans. Coral reefs are the refuge of countless fish, and just like the trees and plants of a forest, coral reefs form the basis of the food chain of the organisms that live there. Together they form fascinating and very diverse structural communities. It is believed that up to 25% of marine creatures depend on the reefs for their survival.
And, unfortunately, they are disappearing from our planet at high speed …
Some studies predict that by 2050 corals will have disappeared completely. A global coral bleaching event has shifted between the northern and southern hemispheres since 2014, affecting around 70% of the world’s reefs. The “terminal” condition of Australia’s sprawling Great Barrier Reef, which suffered bleaching along two-thirds of its 1,400-mile length in 2016 and 2017, has provoked the greatest alarm.
“By 2050, we may still have corals, and things we’ll call ‘reefs’, but they will be massive limestone structures that were built in the past, with tiny patches of living coral struggling to survive on them,” says coral ecologist Peter Sale in an interview with BBC. By 2100, he reckons there will be no calcium carbonate reefs visible.
WHAT ARE THE MAJOR CAUSES OF CORAL DAMAGE?
Over-fishing: the growing fish demand for human consumption and tourist curiosities has resulted in over-fishing not only of deep-sea commercial fish, but also of key reef species. Over-fishing of certain species near coral reefs can easily affect the ecological balance and biodiversity of the reef.
Destructive fishing methods: fishing with dynamite, cyanide and other methods that break the fragile coral reef are highly unsustainable
Coral reefs occupy one of the most important habitats of the oceans. Coral reefs are the refuge of countless fish, and just like the trees and plants of a forest, they form the basis of the food chain of the organisms that live there. It is believed that up to 25% of marine creatures depend on the reefs for their survival.
Unsustainable tourism: physical damage to coral reefs can occur through the contact of neglected swimmers, divers and anchors for poorly located vessels. Hotels and resorts can also discharge untreated wastewater and sewage into the ocean, polluting the water and encouraging algae growth, which competes with corals for space on the reef.
Coastal development: the growth of coastal cities and towns generates a series of threats to nearby coral reefs. Where the development of the land alters the natural flow of water, greater amounts of fresh water, nutrients and sediments can reach the reefs causing further degradation. Coral reefs are biological assemblages adapted to waters with low nutrient content. The addition of nutrients favours species that disrupt the balance of reef communities.
Pollution: Coral reefs need clean water to thrive. From garbage to waste oil, pollution is damaging reefs around the world. Pollution of human activities in the interior can damage coral reefs when they are transported by rivers to coastal waters. Check Our Article: Corals eat plastic.
HOW ARE CORAL REEFS AFFECTED BY CLIMATE CHANGE?
Coral bleaching: Coral bleaching occurs when the symbiosis between corals and their symbiotic zooxanthellae breaks down, resulting in the loss of symbionts and rapid whitening of the coral host (hence the term “bleaching”). This is a stress response of the coral host that can be caused by several factors, but the most severe and frequent cases are being caused by an increase in sea surface temperature. If the temperature decreases, the stressed coral can recover; if it persists, the affected colony may die.
The impacts of coral bleaching are becoming global in scale, and are increasing in frequency and intensity. Massive coral bleaching was not documented in the scientific literature before 1979; however, significant events of mass whitening have been reported since 1982, 1987, 1992 and the strongest event of sea surface warming ever recorded occurred in 1998, where approximately 46% of the corals in the western Indian Ocean suffered a strong impact or died. In 2005, sea surface temperatures in the Caribbean were the highest reported in more than 100 years, and there was also significant coral bleaching after this warming. Last year, coral bleaching was reported in several places in the world. If the sea surface temperature continues to rise, the frequency and severity of coral bleaching will also increase, which will likely affect the ability of coral reefs, as we know them, to adapt and provide many of the services in the coral reefs. that people trust.
Sea level rise: observations since 1961 show that the average temperature of the global ocean has increased even to depths of 3000m , and that the ocean has absorbed more than 80% of the heat added to the climate system. Such warming causes sea level rise and creates problems for nations and low islands.
Acidification of the ocean: this is the name given to the ongoing decline in the pH of Earth’s oceans, caused by its absorption of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Although the natural absorption of CO2 by the world’s oceans helps to mitigate the climatic effects of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, it is believed that the resulting decrease in pH (ie, acidification of water) will have negative consequences, mainly for oceanic calcifying organisms like coral reefs.
Coral disease: over the past 10 years, the frequency of coral diseases appears to have increased dramatically, contributing to the deterioration of coral reef communities around the world. Most diseases occur in response to the appearance of bacteria, fungi and viruses. However, natural events and activities caused by humans can aggravate the susceptibility of reef-forming corals to water-borne pathogens.
Crown of Thorns Starfish (COT): Crown of Thorns Starfish is a voracious predator of coral reefs. Crown of Thorns Starfish populations have increased since the 1970s and large outbreaks of starfish can occur eliminating huge coral reef tracks. Few animals in the sea are willing to attack the thorny sea star and toxic crown of thorns, but some shrimp, worms and reef fish species feed on larvae or small adults. The decrease of these predators, through overexploitation and pollution, is one of the factors that contribute to the increase in the population of the starfish.
HOW CAN YOU HELP PROTECT THE CORAL REEFS?
1 – Be careful when diving: If you plan to dive and observe the coral reef, make a conscious effort not to touch any of the parts. The reefs are extremely delicate, and an error touching them can cause serious damage. Take many pictures, but keep a safe distance from the reef. You can win twice over if you learn buoyancy. We ask you to protect the corals and at the same time become a great diver following our Buoyancy Sessions!
2 – Check your sunscreen: Not all sunscreens are the same. The researchers discovered that a common organic compound used in sunscreens to filter UV rays, called oxybenzone, is toxic to corals. If you are going to dive, consider wearing a full neoprene suit. If sunscreen is absolutely essential, consider using a biodegradable and ecological sunscreen.
3 – Do not litter: Never throw garbage into the water. At this time, it is estimated that there are 18,000 pieces of plastic garbage floating in every square kilometer of the ocean. This kills 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea turtles and marine mammals each year. 6 million tons of debris enter the world’s oceans annually and you do not want to be the contributor to one of them.
In fact, why not go one more mile and pick up any piece of plastic or trash that you see when you dive or dive and throw it away properly? Read our Article 14 Easy Daily Actions Against Plastic Pollution.
4 – Support the right companies: When you visit the ocean, look at the stores and other establishments in the city or town. Talk to dive shops, hotels and other types of coastal stores about how they are trying to help save the coral reef. If they can not give a decent answer, it probably means they do not care. In this case, you must take your business and your money to a place that supports our reefs.
5 -Pesticides and Fertilizers: These two types of chemicals are extremely harmful to coral reef systems around the world. Even if you do not live near an ocean, it is likely that the products you use find their way into the watershed, which eventually reaches an ocean. Research what you put on your lawn: although you can live thousands of kilometers away from the coral reef ecosystem, these products flow into the water system, pollute the ocean and can damage coral reefs and marine life.
6 – Conservation efforts: There are many organisations around the world that devote their resources to preserving and conserving the world’s coral reefs. Look at these organisations and see how you can help them through volunteering or donations.
Here we leave you a few to start with:
Coral Reef Alliance
The Nature Conservancy
Coral Restoration Foundation
Reef Guardian International
Some studies predict that by 2050 corals will have disappeared completely. A global coral bleaching event has shifted between the northern and southern hemispheres since 2014, affecting around 70% of the world’s reefs .
7 – Reduce the amount of wastewater you are producing: Because wastewater flows somewhere eventually and could end up in the ocean. Start by keeping the gutter, drains and drains free of chemicals and garbage, so choose biodegradable and environmentally friendly detergents or, even better, make your own cleaning product. You can also minimize water runoff by planting trees and planters around your home. And, of course, you can take shorter showers.
8 – Help reduce pollution: Walk, ride a bicycle or take the bus. Fossil fuel emissions from automobiles and industry increase oceanic warming, which causes massive bleaching of corals and can lead to widespread destruction of reefs.
9 – Reduce your consumption of plastic: Especially things like coffee cups and plastic bags. Less plastic waste causes more empty landfills and therefore lower CO2 emissions. Check Why Corals Eat Plastic and 14 Easy Daily Actions Against Plastic Pollution
10 – Think about what you buy: When buying fish, take a moment to consider how it was caught. We wish you wouldn’t eat fish at all. But if you do, only buy fish harvested in an ecologically correct manner. When fish are harvested using sodium cyanide, this is extremely harmful to the oceans. Many species of fish are being over fished and their population is decreasing drastically. Always make sure that the seafood you buy comes from sustainable sources.
When you buy fruits and vegetables, make sure that the producers are not using pesticides and fertilisers that are so harmful to the sea. Remember that no matter how far from the ocean these vegetables have been grown. If it is an industrially grown vegetable or fruit, it is almost guaranteed that the products used to cultivate and conserve them are highly damaging to the oceans.
11 – Spread the word: Read everything you can about marine conservation and coral reefs and share this information with others. The more information you have on hand, the more informed actions you can take to save our oceans and reefs!
Even though you may be aware of coral reefs and how they are under threat, this does not mean that your friends and family share this awareness. Offer them information about the reefs through books, videos and social networks. The more people learn and become enthusiastic about coral reefs, the more likely we are to unite to succeed in conservation. Make your voice heard everywhere. Why not start by sharing this article?
The fight for the survival of the Coral Reefs is a voracious fight with an uncertain ending. It is not certain that we will be able to save these wonderful creatures. Maybe it’s already too late. But while there is life, there is hope. If one thing is certain today, it is that if we do not take action, the corals will have already lost the battle. In Scuba Legends we ask you, please, do not remain impassive, start today, the change is still possible, become an Ocean Gardener!