Hello, and welcome to The Science Behind Coral part 2! In part 1 we talked about the basics; what they are, how they reproduce, and more! In this part 2, we’re going to be discussing the importance of corals and the effect global warming has on them.
Shell we get started?
How is coral important to the environment? It can’t just be there to look pretty right?
Coral has countless uses that make it as important as it is.
First off, it’s biodiversity. Biodiversity, in simple words, means the variety of life inhabiting a certain environment. Coral reefs are believed to have one of the biggest biodiversities in the entire world, even more than rainforests! Corals only occupy about 1% of the ocean floor, according to Coral.org, yet they are home to more than 25% of marine life. They provide spawning, breeding, and feeding grounds for more than 4000 species of fish. The National Ocean Service also explains how Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment.
Corals hold a lot of value for humans as well. Because of their rough texture and dense structures, corals can help buffer storms, tsunamis, or hurricanes that appear on coastlines. They help slow down such natural disasters, protecting our homes and roads. According to The National Ocean Service, corals help “buffer shorelines against 97 PERCENT of the energy from waves, storms, and floods.” Without coral reefs, coastline cities would be destroyed after merely one minor hurricane or storm.
Corals provide millions of people with jobs and food as well. Fisheries, tourism, all of these businesses depend upon coral to provide for them. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration state that 500 MILLION people depend on coral for their main source of income.
But that’s not all. More than 1/7 of the entire world, one billion people, depend on coral for food every day. The economic value of coral is estimated to be 3.4 billion dollars every year! They are clearly very important.
As we’ve learned, corals play a big role in ensuring the safety/protection of marine life and us. And we should be there to return that favor. Unfortunately, though, we are not doing a good job. Because of pollution and global warming, these amazing creatures are in grave danger and are currently undergoing a harmful process called coral bleaching.
Coral bleaching is exactly what it sounds like. It’s when corals are deprived of their lively bright colors and subject to a slow, painful death.
Coral bleaching takes place when the temperature of the water increases until it is way above normal. The warm water causes the coral to eject a type of algae situated in its tissues called zooxanthellae (try saying that five times in a row!). Zooxanthellae not only gives coral the beautiful color it’s known and loved for, but it also provides the coral’s main food source. Zooxanthellae is the product of photosynthesis that corals engage in, and when corals are deprived of this substance, they no longer have the energy to catch food, reproduce, or photosynthesize. This algae is also one of the main reasons fish inhabit corals, without it, marine life isn’t attracted to corals as much.
When corals are bleached, they don’t die immediately. But if the water temperature doesn’t return to normal, they will slowly stop producing energy, and ultimately die. Most of the time, it doesn’t return to normal. In fact, it gets worse
That leaves the unfortunate truth that has caused more than 50% of the WORLD’s coral to die off. These corals are gone forever, leaving behind millions of people's lives destroyed, ill marine life, and a bare white skeleton.
Coral bleaching is a problem that is happening right now. While you’re reading this article and while I’m writing it. It will have serious consequences if we don’t do anything now. We can’t stay down and let this continue. We have to stand up for a change.
I know the thoughts that are running in your head right now. How can we help? How can I make such a BIG difference?
Remember, an ocean fills up drop by drop. If we reform ourselves for the better and others take that initiative as well, we can do a lot more than we could ever imagine.
So take a stand. Be the change you want to see in this world. Sign petitions against overfishing and toxic products (petitions you can sign are linked below!), protest against global warming, even try to do something as simple as plant a tree! But take a stand.
The Science Behind team and I have your back!