Importance of coral reefs

Coral reefs are special marine organisms that provide both shelter and food to several marine species which in turn serves as food for the higher predators in the food chain.

The coral reefs are animals that look like plants with a variety of colors. The coral reefs are a group of organisms living together. Coral reefs are composed of the coral polyps, the tiny little creatures that look like sea anemones and create calcium carbonate exoskeletons that make up the larger coral structure and the coral skeleton. Each generation builds upon the previous generation, and that is how the coral reefs “grow.”

Corals fed on the dinoflagellates, a photosynthesizing alga, that lives in polyps in the coral. These organisms are intertwined because neither of the two is able to live on its own. They depend on each other for survival. Dinoflagellates depend on sunlight that is why most of the corals are found in the shallow waters where sunlight can penetrate.

Coral reefs are also a big use to us, humans. Coral reefs help us in several ways. For example, Coral reefs serve as barrier that protect nearby shorelines from the eroding forces of the sea, thereby protecting coastal dwellings, agricultural land and beaches. Also, coral reefs lessen the impact of tsunamis and hurricanes trough breaking its power and reducing its intensity.

Another significant role of the coral reefs is, as said earlier, to provide food and shelter for the several marine species specifically, fishes and these fishes where what we take as food or as major products in some parts of the world. Did you expect that? Coral reefs had been very important in our economy!

Also, a major breakthrough in the treatment of HIV infections is the medicine AZT that is based on the chemicals found in sponge reefs in the Caribbean and it highlights the potential of medicinal value of coral reefs. Pharmaceutical companies have targeted coral reefs for medicines on cancer and other terminal diseases.

Lastly, coral reefs had also been a big use in the industry of tourism because of its great beauty and wonderful colors.

coral bleaching

In today’s world, we all know that many things depreciate and coral reefs were one of it. It is estimated that 20% of the world’s coral reefs have been effectively destroyed in the last few decades and an additional 20% or more are severely degraded, particularly in the Caribbean Sea and Southeast Asia. This was because of several reasons and one of the reasons was our own doing. Because of several human activities such as, trampling, destructive fishing techniques (e.g., poison, dynamite), pollution and anchoring, coral bleaching occurs, a phenomena where the coral reefs die out and only the coral skeleton is left. The coral skeleton is simply calcium carbonate, and is white, while the polyps provide the great variety of color to coral reefs.

Worldwide problems such as ocean water acidification and increased global ocean temperatures also contribute to the decay of this fragile ecosystem. Taking action to decrease land water pollutants would drastically improve ocean and coral health. Also supporting worldwide limits on fishing and fishing practices would allow only sustainable fishing to take place, protecting coral and giving fish a chance to reproduce and keep their populations at healthy levels, ensuring fish well into the future. Actions to reduce greenhouse gases would also help reduce global warming and therefore ocean warming. While many obstacles are difficult to overcome, making minor changes in everyday living can change the fate of the planet. The coral reefs are our warning system – if they can’t survive, we are on our way to inhospitable planet. But if we can protect our reefs, we can all thrive in a healthy world, and enjoy the beauty of the sea gardens for generations to come.

We should bear in mind the message said in the movie, Avatar, ‘Men, enough of greed, stop exploring other lives just for some parochial needs, let life sustain, in what form it is, no matter wherever it is’.