Saving the Corals and Coral Reefs

Things That Can Be Done for Saving the Corals and Coral Reefs

Today, with rapid destruction of the coral reefs, it is time you take a breather from your busy schedule and know how you can make a difference. Saving the coral reefs can be achieved even if you are miles away from the coastal line.
Coral reefs are facing many threats from mankind. One can generally find two kinds of corals beneath the sea- hard and soft. The reefs are formed by millions of polyp shells. They are composed not only of millions of such structures, but also house living organisms, like algae, sponges, marine plants, fish, etc.

Zooxanthellae are a kind of an algae that live inside the corals. These are very essential for the survival of the reefs. They also add to the beauty, as zooxanthellae are also responsible for the attractive colors. Even the common seaweeds are important, as they provide food through the process of photosynthesis.

Coral reefs can only thrive in a congenial environment. They need ample sunlight, narrow range of the temperature of water, and the salinity of water should be around 34-37 parts per thousand. They usually thrive in areas with shallow water, as the algae need to perform the photosynthesis, which is definitely not possible in deeper waters.

What is Leading to their Destruction?

Man plays the major role in this case. Nature also has its own part to play. Sometimes, hurricanes and such storms, destroy a major portion of these reefs. A lot of marine animals such as the starfish, eat into the corals. Though, the prime destruction has been due to mankind. Global warming and the increase of pollution levels have caused a lot of damage to these reefs.

The unhealthy fishing habits of humans, is one of the prime reasons for the damage caused. There are many areas that still use an illegal process of blast fishing, and this causes harm to not only the reefs but also the other living organisms around. Fishermen also employ the use of spears and sometimes, it is this excess fishing that creates an imbalance in the natural food chain. Cyanide fishing is also another harmful practice employed by fishermen. Here the divers squeeze cyanide into the crevices of the reefs. This in turn, stuns the fish making them an easier prey to the humans.

Pollution affects the reefs in many more ways than one can ever imagine. For example, oil spills pollute the water, which in turn enters the reefs through the corals. Once the polyps are affected, the entire reef faces damage. Waste products, and their dumping in seawater, have contaminated the oceans. This can sometimes result in over growth of algae. An excess of algae covering the reef causes a lesser intake of oxygen. The increase in the levels of the carbon dioxide in water has made the coral structures weaker.

Coral reefs are home to many marine animals. They also are a major source of food. Humans need to understand while purchasing souvenirs, that these are also a major cause of the damage to the reefs.

Global warming has now resulted in the rising temperatures of the ocean waters. Corals need lower temperatures for their food process. Any changes in the climate cause a loss of the algae covering the reefs. When the algae are unable to produce food from the process of photosynthesis, the reefs have to face 'coral bleaching'. This bleaching is evident when the major area turns white in color.

The coral reefs, and the Earth in general, would benefit largely if you follow some of the simple steps listed below:
  • When you operate a boat, ensure you have checked the engine equipment to avoid oil and gas spills. Also navigate the boat carefully to prevent any damage to the reefs.
  • When you go to your favorite restaurant for sumptuous seafood delights, ensure you avoid those items that are caught through illegal practices and usage of illegal equipment.
  • Try to use the public transport available or find other alternatives to travel (carpool) that would help in reducing the levels of pollution.
  • Be aware of the usage of water. Water is precious so use every drop with care.
  • When you feel the need to snorkel or scuba dive, ensure the authenticity of the operators. Make sure you gather information about them and know if they are aware and actually care for the reefs, as well as the measures they undertake to preserve it. Most operators are out to make a quick buck, so ensure you support only those people who are aware of their responsibilities towards the sea.
  • Plant a tree to reduce the rising temperatures caused by global warming.
  • As a tourist, you must be completely aware to avoid giving encouragement to the outlets that sell illegal souvenirs. There is only one way to put an end to this practice- Stop buying such souvenirs.
  • You too can help in the clean up of the coastal line. Avoid littering the beaches and support local groups that are actively involved in these causes.
Remember, you alone can make a difference. Every effort from your side can go a long way in saving the reefs.
Coral bleaching
Starfish on coral reef
Soft coral reef