The climate crisis affects our wildlife and coral reefs. Our generation is watching this rich ecosystem disappear before our eyes. We must take action soon.
Coral Reef Ecosystems are Crucial
The ecosystems that make up coral reefs are called the rainforests of the sea because they are filled with biodiversity. Coral reefs take up only 1% of the ocean floor. However, they are home to about 25% of all ocean species. This includes keystone species such as corals and sea turtles.
Did you know coral reefs are described as the “speed bumps of the ocean?” This is because they help control waves as they move towards the shore. They protect coastlines and the people who live along with them in 81 countries worldwide from hurricanes, cyclones, and tsunamis.
Also, coral reef ecosystems are vital for coastal communities. For example, they provide food and employment opportunities. Fishing and tourism are needed in many developing island nations to survive. Healthy coral reefs are important to achieve this.
Image credit: Cinzia Osele Bismarck / Coral Reef Image Bank
Coral Reefs and Climate Change
More than three-quarters of coral reefs are currently threatened. These important ecosystems are affected by stressors from human activity. Stressors include overfishing, pollution, sedimentation, diseases, and climate change.
Climate change is the biggest threat to coral reefs right now. As the planet slowly warms up, so does the ocean’s temperature. In turn, this causes coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is when algae leave the coral because the water is too hot.
Coral bleaching is happening quickly and in large amounts. The last global bleaching event lasted from 2014-2017. It brought mass bleaching-level heat stress to more than 75 percent of global reefs. In fact, nearly 30 percent of reefs suffered incredible damage.
Additionally, ocean acidification means the water pH or acid is not as balanced. This happens because of increased carbon dioxide. It is a huge stressor for the reefs. This makes it more difficult for reefs to build their stable physical structure to survive.
What You Can Do
The coral reef crisis affects our vital underwater ecosystem. It also affects the stability of the whole planet.
Thankfully, many environmental workers have created coral reef nurseries. These nurseries ensure there will still be reefs intact for future generations. However, there is more we can do:
- Stop Illegal and Destructive Fishing (For more info check out our blog on the recent Netflix documentary Seaspiracy)
- Expand Marine Protected Areas with Clear Restrictions
- End Coral-Harming Pollution
- Have Major Economies Move to Zero Carbon by 2030
- Opt for
Written by Morgan Swain