Coral reefs cover less than 0.1% of the ocean’s surface, but over 25% of all marine
species live or depend on coral reefs. Coral reefs are underwater ecosystems that are held
together by coral. However, these biodiverse areas of the ocean are dying out due to human activity.
Coral reefs are bleached, overfished, and harvested to provide cheap
dust-collectors for tourists. Pollution and global warming also take a toll on the coral, the pollution making the water too acidic, the global warming raising the sea level so the algae inside the coral cannot photosynthesize, and by extension, unable to provide nutrition to the coral. When coral cannot get enough nutrients, their foundation falls apart, dying and turning white, or bleached. Bleached corals can’t grow or maintain the reef’s structure, and the entire ecosystem falls apart. Coral has also become very popular for souvenirs-- maybe too popular.Just in 2016, permitted coral exports produced 2.5 million pieces of live coral, 739 tons of raw coral, and 31,000 colonies of black coral, and illegal coral trade has been a long standing feature around the world. Coral reefs are being fished— overfished, for profit.
Fishermen also use a method called dynamite fishing in reefs, and often cyanide to stun or kill fish. This has made fishing much easier, but has also resulted in overfishing, to the point where the reefs can’t recover from the loss of these fish. Coral reefs are very slow with recovery. A single piece of dynamite can destroy dozens of years of growth.
Now, all of us have heard something to this effect at one point or another, but how many
have actually done something? Not a lot? It’s the same for the whole world. More awareness has to be raised for the coral reefs to survive. The total budget at the moment is 26 million, 16 million to one major organization, 10 million to the other. Now, this may sound like
a large amount, but it isn’t. By comparison, the United States military has a budget that sits comfortably above 700 billion.
Healthy coral reefs absorb wave energy from the ocean, buffering shorelines from currents, waves, and storms, helping to prevent loss of life and property damage. This is increasingly important with the emergence of global warming, which causes increased hurricanes and tsunamis. Florida alone received a record-breaking number of hurricanes just this year. Tropical storms are devastating not only in the loss of human life, but int he property damage and relief services that take billions to fix.
In medicine, chemical compounds from corals can potentially be used to treat cancer, AIDS, pain, and for other therapeutic uses. Coral skeletons are also used for bone grafting in humans, and the destruction of coral reefs only takes these valuable resources away from us.
Coastal communities near coral reefs rely heavily on their presence for tourism, food, and coastal protection. Worldwide, more than 500 million people depend on these reefs for survival. The total economic value of coral reef services in the United States - including fisheries, tourism, and coastal protection - is more than $3.4 billion a year. The destruction of these reefs is something we can and should prevent, if only for their backbone for the ocean’s ecosystem.
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