Coral reefs are one of the most unique features on earth and have been around for over 25 million years. However, within the last 100 years, we have watched a once expansive amount of reef species disappear at a rapid pace. One of the key reasons this is happening is climate change and the rising temperature of the ocean. Higher ocean temperatures make coral reefs to go into extreme stress, known as bleaching, which often causes the reefs to die.
Bleaching is a process through which coral reefs release colorful microalgae and turn a skeleton-like white. Bleached coral is not dead, but it is at a much higher risk for death, starvation, and disease. Once corals go through the process of bleaching it is almost impossible for them to be restored to their former, healthier state. Within the last 20 years, we have seen with our own eyes the drastically declining state of coral reefs, with the worst impacts happening in South Asia, Australia, the Pacifics, East Asia, the Western Indian Ocean, the Gulf, and the Gulf of Oman.
In the UNEP's Projections of Future Coral Bleaching report, it was said that "by 2034 such severe bleaching will have happened that it would be next to impossible to reverse the damages that have been done.” This presents us with a timeline for how long we have to save our coral reefs.
Some of the leading causes of endangerment to our coral reefs are climate change, overfishing, ocean acidification, pollution, unsustainable tourism, and poor coastal management.
Here are some small steps that can be made to help our earth:
Look, don’t touch
If given the opportunity to go diving near coral reefs, it is key to look and not touch. Coral is a living organism, and touching it can cause damage.
When taking boats or other aquatic vehicles near coral reefs make sure to look at the rules and regulations beforehand. A key fact to remember is to anchor near the sand, not near the corals.
Be careful of what you throw into where
Knowing what chemicals are in your hygiene and cleaning products is almost as key as knowing where to throw them away. Be mindful of the fact that the chemicals within these products end up negatively affecting coral reefs when not disposed of properly.
Know your seafood and its effects
When eating seafood be careful not to overconsume. Check out https://www.fishwatch.gov/ to find out more about what seafood is sustainable and what is not. Buying and eating seafood smartly is a key role you can play in helping coral reefs.
Volunteer when you can and always pick up your trash.
If you are near the ocean try volunteering to pick up trash, as pollution is one of the top threats to our coral reefs and seas.
NOAA's Coral Reef Information System (Coris) - what are coral reefs. NOAA Coral Reef Information System (CoRIS) Home Page. (2007, October 12). Retrieved November 13, 2022, from https://www.coris.noaa.gov/about/what_are/#:~:text=Appearing%20as%20solitary%20forms%20in,biological%20origin
Unep. (2021, September 30). Visual feature: Status of coral reefs of the world. UNEP. Retrieved November 13, 2022, from https://www.unep.org/interactives/status-world-coral-reefs/#:~:text=The%20report%20paints%20a%20picture,by%20local%20and%20global%20threats
US Department of Commerce, N. O. and A. A. (2009, August 10). What can I do to protect coral reefs? NOAA's National Ocean Service. Retrieved November 13, 2022, from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/thingsyoucando.html