Humans and other living organisms need Oxygen to breathe and survive. The oxygen that we inhale mostly comes from trees and coral reefs.
Coral reefs? What are those? How they produce oxygen? Little bit confused, so let’s learn something about “Coral reefs“.
A coral reef is an underwater ecosystem characterized by reef-building corals.
The branch or mound that we often call “acoral” is actually made up of thousands of tiny animals called polyps. A coral polyp is an invertebrate that cannot be bigger than a pinhead to up to a foot in diameter.
Most reefs grow best in warm, shallow, clear, sunny and agitated water. Also known as the “Rainforest of the sea”, shallow coral reefs form some of Earth’s most diverse ecosystems.
While coral reefs only cover 0.0025 percent of the oceanic floor, they generate half of Earth’s oxygen and absorb nearly one-third of the carbon dioxide generated from burning fossil fuels. There are over 2,500 kinds (species) of corals. About half of these corals (about 1,000) are the hard corals that build coral reefs.
Everyone of us had once watched the movie “Finding Nemo”. In the film, we get to see the beautiful colony built under the ocean. So colourful that it mesmerized you to go underwater and see it in real. I will say, just give it a try because then you’ll be able to see the harsh toxic reality of the Coral reefs. The place from where we get 50% of our oxygen is dying. It is losing it’s essence down there and slowly dying.
The threats to coral and coral reefs — which include climate change, pollution, coastal development, fishing and the creation of jewelry and souvenirs — are very real. Once the coral is dead, the reefs will also die and erode, destroying important marine life spawning and feeding grounds.
What happens if we loss the Coral reefs?
In 2008, a worldwide study estimated that 19% of the existing area of coral reefs has already been lost, and that a further 17% is likely to be lost over the subsequent 10–20 years. It means around 36% of the reefs are gone by now. If the rest go, the consequences would be dire. Marine life has the most to lose. Coral reefs cover less than 1% of the ocean floor. Without reefs, billions of underwater species would suffer, millions of people would lose their most significant food source, and economies would take a major hit.
Coral disease was first recognized as a threat to Caribbean reefs in 1972 when black band disease was discovered. It has been estimated that 50% of the Caribbean sea coral cover has disappeared since the 1960s. According to a United Nations Environment Program report, the Caribbean coral reefs might face extirpation in next 20 years due to population expansion along the coast lines, overfishing, the pollution of coastal areas, global warming, and invasive species.
Fact: The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system.
Coral reefs are being degraded by many factors like : overfishing, fishing using cyanide and dynamite, pollution from sewage and agriculture, massive outbreaks of predatory starfish, invasive species and sedimentation from poor land use practices.
There are around 10 reefs in India and some of them are going to extinct in the coming years due to over population & pollution. India is producing non-biodegradable waste in a very huge amount, which is not treated properly and was later released in the water bodies.
Why is Coral Reef important?
• They protect coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms.
• Provide habitats and shelter for many species.
• Are the source of nitrogen and other essential nutrients for marine food chains.
• Assist in carbon and nitrogen fixing.
• The fishing industry depends on coral reefs because many fish spawn there and juvenile fish spend time there before making their way to the open sea.
• Help with nutrient recycling.
Can we save the Coral reefs?
Even if you live far from coral reefs, you can have an impact on reef health and conservation. But we can save the reefs from extinction by doing these –
1. Support reef-friendly businesses.
2. Don’t use chemically enhanced pesticides and fertilizers.
3. When you visit a coral reef, help keep it healthy.
4. Support conservation organizations.
5. Spread the word.
6. Don’t pollute.
7. Report dumping or other illegal activities.
8. If you dive, don’t touch!
9. Don’t anchor on the reef.
10. Only buy marine aquarium fish if you know they have been collected in an ecologically sound manner
11. Keep it clean
And there are many more such ways to save and conserve “Our Coral Reefs”.