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Be it a rise in global warming and rising ocean temperatures or more coastal industrialization and destructive fishing practices, coral reefs face severe immediate threats that need to be stopped and rectified before the damage reaches an uncontrollable point.
Coral Reefs are getting damaged
Corals are soft-bodied polyps with hard outer body skeletons made up of limestone and are found in warm tropical areas. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is an example and probably the most commonly known one. Unfortunately, in the past few years, as recent as 2023, the earth has seen a rise in the degradation and damage of coral reefs around the world. While
t several factors have contributed to their degradation, rising ocean temperatures as a result of global warming have been the primary ones. As of today, the Earth has already lost half of its shallow-water corals, and studies and estimations show that by the latter half of this century, more than 90 percent of the Earth’s coral reefs will be destroyed.
Following the discovery that the majority of its corals had suffered damage from boats, the Thai island of Ko Phi Phi Leh closed its doors to tourists in 2018. In a similar case in 2023, corals on the beautiful Samsae San Island in eastern Thailand also reported depleting corals as an outcome of the “Yellow Band’ disease that was killing vast stretches of corals along the seafloor. The list goes on.
We need to understand why something that could hurt limestone polyps should also worry us. To begin with, human beings consume about 150 million metric tonnes of seafood every year, and corals serve as a breeding ground for fish as they provide shelter for most varieties of fish that humans consume. Seafood accounts for seventy-seven percent of the dietary protein consumption of human beings, and corals directly cater to the well-being and breeding of those fish. Furthermore, corals act as essential sources of important pharmaceuticals. Since modern medicine is derived from natural sources, corals act as an important source for scientists to derive ingredients that can be used to manufacture essential drugs. The World Health Organization listed Ara-C, an anti-cancer agent, in its list of essential medicines—a medicine that can only be found in sea sponges, which are found in the Caribbean Sea.
If we ignore the areas where human beings are direct benefactors from coral reefs, then we see how corals are home to more than 25 percent of all marine species. They cater to marine life under the sea and are an important biodiversity hot spot. Their depletion would add to the already threatened marine diversity. Biodiversity hot spots are like a game of dominoes; the destruction of one would set in motion the destruction of other biodiversity hot spots. Ultimately, we can even say that the protection of corals would help maintain the earth’s well-being.
we need to worry
In countries like the United States of America, corals act as natural barriers that prevent floods. In areas like Florida and Hawaii, corals act as preventative natural flood barriers. Statistics have shown that a decrease in even one meter of a coral reef could lead to damages of up to five billion dollars, as it would affect the resources and structures available on land. The good news is that there are a myriad of ways to protect existing ones, prevent future damage, and even reverse the damage done to older ones. To begin with, restricting human contact or movement around coral reefs will drastically preserve them. This includes banning on all commercial boat movements near the reefs. After three years of banning humans from near coral reefs, Thailand has successfully restored all of its damaged reefs and brought back the ecological balance of its islands. Finally, and most importantly, carbon emissions and global warming are the most significant destructors of coral reefs. Taking steps to reduce emissions and even working towards climate change would drastically benefit coral reefs and marine life.