Coral Reefs: Can We Help Them Soon Enough?

  Recent news has announced that coral reefs are now on the IUCN’s Red List of one of the most endangered and threatened animals in the world. Coral reefs around the world have always drawn tourists from all over with their majestic colors, unique shapes and variations, and ability to grow and change. Unfortunately, what many people fail to realize just how much they affect the reefs day to day.  And with the growing rate of tourism, ocean dwelling, and human ignorance, without protection the corral reefs are going to be extinct by 2050. And it’s a big deal. One of the greatest problems to humans is the lack of understanding and knowledge about coral. Particularly how alive and affected they are by changes in water temperature, pollution, global warming, and sedimentation. Corals are teeming with life, and cover about 1% of the ocean floor, however they support about 25% of all marine animals. Without the help of conservation teams, corals are in serious danger and so spreading knowledge is incredibly crucial to their survival. Corals are collections of many ‘polyps’ that could live on their own, but function greater in larger communities- reefs. Polyps are soft bodied and tiny organisms with small relations to sea anemones and jellyfish. What gives off their beautiful and diverse glow, is the zooxanthellae algae that they host, which brings out the color from the translucent polyps that make up coral. Generally, corals live in more tropical waters throughout the world, but if conditions threaten their existence, they will evict their home, causing coral bleaching which stresses the colony with the possibility of extinction. (An example of Coral bleaching) According to Yahoo News, more than 90% of reefs will be threatened by 2030 and nearly all reefs will be at risk by 2050 unless serious action is taken. Also, due to rising levels of acidity in the ocean, experts claim that we will start to see conditions that we have not witnessed since the age of dinosaurs. There are many factors that are all affecting the death and survival of the coral reefs, and here are just some of the problems and solutions applicable. Problems: -Warming seas: causing widespread damage to the reefs as a whole -Overfishing and dredging -Coastal Development: moving or riding the reefs for human gain -Increase in CO2: making the ocean more acidic -Pollution Solutions : -Reduce greenhouse gas emissions -Reduce local threats (over fishing, pollution) -Improve marine management -Stopping spread of non-native shellfish -Implementation of conservation groups An extremely important element to why humans must take immediate action to help the coral reefs is the fact that the death of the reefs will seriously affect life on land. Currently, the reefs protect sea shores from storms, absorbing about 90% of wind generated waves. Not only do the reefs provide protection, but a bulk of human survival and jobs are focused around the coral reefs. These jobs range from fishermen, to marine biologists to conservationists and more. According to Time Magazine’s article, with the extinction of the coral reefs will come the breakdown of the entire ocean’s ecosystem because of how important the reefs are to the ocean as well as the land. A survey by Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA) indicated that one third of the more than 700 species of reef-building coral are currently threatened with extinction. In terms of the world, this number is staggeringly high, which makes it’s threat the level of “endangered.” Criteria from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (the group that publishes the threatened species “Red List”) now claims that coral reefs are now the most endangered species around the world. (These are just a few places around the world with Coral Conservation Sites) The World Resources Institute (WRI) has a large involvement with observing, acknowledging and implementing change. They have created a published document titled, “Reefs at Risk: Revisited” in which they explicitly discuss and review all the negative changes that are happening to the reefs. They have even mapped out a visual display of the coral reefs at risk around the world, using Google Earth, to show just how much change is happening around the world. [youtube=] It is now extremely important for conservation groups and established researchers to begin rapid methods and solutions to the growing problem. Hopefully with the introduction of the electric car, as well as solar-powered energy efficient technology and other emissions-reducing capabilities, the levels of destruction already wrecked on the reef will stagger out. News is spreading around the world, and it is through knowledge and awareness that we, as humans, will be able to bring about the change that is necessary. Until then, bicycle more, be conscious of waste, and please, don’t touch the coral! Alexandra Noonan The Cornucopia Corner

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