Benefits of Coral Reefs:
Commonly referred to as the “rainforests of the sea”, coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, with around 25% of the ocean’s fish relying on them for food, shelter, and a place to raise their offspring. Reefs also raise billions of dollars in revenue for the fishing, tourism and recreation industry. Moreover, corals are being used in new drugs and medications to treat illnesses, including arthritis and even cancer. Our reefs can combat erosion by forming barriers to protect shorelines from waves, storms and flooding. Hence, coral reefs are precious to our planet, providing a habitat for thousands of underwater species and livelihoods for millions of people.
Coral Reefs are Threatened:
Despite their significance, our corals are crumbling due to warmer water temperatures, pollution and ocean acidification. The rise in global ocean temperature corresponds with coral bleaching, a process by which corals expel the algae in their tissue that gives them color. This makes a coral completely white and susceptible to mortality. Furthermore, when pollutants infiltrate a body of water, they can smother the reefs and increase the growth of destructive algae. Ocean acidification can also be detrimental to the strength of a coral’s skeleton as it decreases their density and renders them more susceptible to shattering.
How to Help:
- Recycle and dispose of your trash properly to keep it from ending up in waterways and oceans.
- Reduce stormwater runoff by installing water catchments, planting rain gardens, or using rain barrels to collect excess rainwater.
- If you have fish, avoid purchasing live coral for aquariums.
- If you dive, don’t touch corals or stir up sediment that could smother them.
- When boating, anchor in sandy areas away from reefs so that the anchor and chain do not drag on nearby corals.
- Volunteer in local beach or reef cleanups and get involved in protecting your watershed!