Why coral reefs are important

Romina Bayer

Why are coral reefs important? Coral reefs are home to 25% of marine life and an ecosystem that is incredibly biodiverse. They provide food, jobs, tourism, and recreation for people all over the world. On top of that, they also protect coastlines from waves and floods. So it’s important that we work to conserve them.

Coral reefs are vital to our planet and we need to work to conserve them.

They are a diverse and complex ecosystem that provides habitat for over one million species, as well as food, medicine, and livelihoods for 500 million people worldwide. But our reefs are in trouble.

 

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), more than 75% of the world’s coral reefs have been lost to bleaching events caused by rising ocean temperatures since 1980. In fact, global warming is one of the biggest threats facing our oceans today—and it’s affecting more than just corals!

Corals are made up of tiny animals called polyps that grow on the ocean floor. These colonies create a habitat for fish, crustaceans, and other marine life. They can be found in tropical oceans around the world.

Coral with sunburst

Coral reefs are home to 25% of all marine life

Coral reefs are home to 25% of marine life and are one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on our planet. This fact is even more impressive, considering that they cover less than 1% of the ocean floor. 

Reef ecosystems are vital for the survival of thousands of species as they provide fish with shelter from predators, food sources, and space to reproduce. This makes them important nurseries for many fish species, many of which are entirely dependent on reefs for survival.

The ocean absorbs a whopping 20% of global CO2 emissions—more than all the forests on land combined. And the rate at which it can continue to do so is largely dependent on the health of coral reefs.

Helping protect coastlines from waves and floods

Coral reefs can reduce wave energy by as much as 95%, which helps protect coastlines from coastal hazards such as storm surges, tsunamis, and erosion. They also absorb wave energy before it reaches the shoreline, preventing damage to infrastructure and property.

Alor fishtrap

Providing food, jobs, tourism, and recreation

Besides their importance for the oceans, reefs are an important source of food for millions of people around the world.

In fact, more than 1 million tons of fish are fished every year by local communities.

In addition, reefs provide jobs that support economies in many countries around the world.

In tourism-dependent countries like Fiji, Indonesia, and the Caribbean thousands of people rely on reef-related activities such as diving or snorkeling to earn a living.

In other areas where there is no tourism industry, fishing provides income for local communities who depend on coral reef fisheries as part of their livelihoods (such as in American Samoa).

Corals are under threat and need our protection

Coral reefs are essential to the health of our oceans and the people who live near them. However, warming ocean temperatures are causing coral bleaching and disease to spread across reefs at an alarming rate. The effects on corals from climate change and coral disease can be devastating for entire marine species and people who depend on them for their livelihoods.

Pollution and the destruction of habitats are further threats.

Unfortunately, there is an increasing number of coral species that are now listed as endangered, including the elkhorn coral, staghorn coral, and the acropora coral.

Coral restoration projects can help to restore damaged reefs

Scientists are working to restore coral reefs and there are more and more projects, initiatives, and NGOs emerging in this field. 

Coral restoration projects like Utila Coral Foundation are growing new corals in nurseries in order to transplant them onto existing reefs once they have reached a certain size. There are several methods of doing so, including using coral nursery systems to grow new coral, transplanting coral from one location to another, and using artificial reefs to provide a substrate for coral growth.

By growing the coral in a protected environment, coral restoration projects are helping to restore damaged reefs. 

When corals release their eggs and sperm into the water to fertilize, these are mass coral spawning events. These events are usually timed with the lunar cycle and happen a few days after the full moon.

Scientists have found that through mass spawning events, healthy coral reefs are able to repopulate surrounding reefs. This explains why some reefs can recover from major impacts such as storms or massive heat waves relatively quickly. 

Another discovery is that some reefs are more resilient than others. This is an area that needs further research, but it bares potential for further reef protection methods. 

coral reef in Egypt

What you can do to help protect coral reefs

Here are some ways in which you can help protect coral reefs.

  1. Advocate for strong environmental regulations to protect corals from pollution and habitat destruction. 
  2. Support conservation efforts to create marine protected areas or rebuild damaged coral reefs. 
  3. Reduce your own carbon footprint to help slow down climate change and ocean acidification. 
  4. Educate others about the importance of corals and ways to help protect them. Your underwater photos of healthy, as well as endangered or even destructed coral can help raise awareness and inspire further action.

Conclusion

Coral reefs are a vital part of our ecosystem. They provide food for millions worldwide, protect coastlines from natural disasters like floods and hurricanes, and provide jobs and recreation for people worldwide. In order to preserve these precious places we need to take action now!

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