🌿This photo depicts the drastic difference between healthy and bleached coral reefs. Despite common beliefs, Corals are actually animals that depend on photosynthesizing algae to survive. They reside by the equator in beautiful and colorful reefs that are home to thousands of marine organisms, from the smallest clownfish to the biggest sea turtles. Corals are main contributors to marine food chains because they assist in carbon and nitrogen fixing (converting atmospheric nitrogen & carbon into compounds usable by organisms) and help with nutrient recycling. The reefs also help humans by protecting coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms. Much of tourism on coasts, such as that of Australia, depend on coral reefs that generate billions of dollars per year to a country’s economy.
There is no doubt that coral reefs are essential to the marine ecosystem and human affairs; however, up to two-thirds of the coral cover of the Great Barrier Reef has been lost as of 2016. Excess carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere caused by human consumption is absorbed by the ocean, lowering the pH level of the sea. The acidic water makes calcification (process in which corals create their hard shells) very difficult, and corals are not able to build their skeletons to survive. Additionally, the Greenhouse Effect causes an increase in water temperature, thus the algae that the coral depend upon leave, and the corals become bleached. If the effects are prolonged and the water cannot return to normal temperatures, the coral eventually die. As more and more corals die, many organisms lose their habitat and food sources, coastlines are left unprotected, and economies drop.
In order to preserve Earth’s beautiful coral reefs, we must reduce our carbon footprints. Things we can do as everyday people include throwing trash away properly, wasting less water, protecting coastal parks and wildlife, using eco-friendly means of transportation such as walking or biking, turning off lights when not in use, eating locally produced food, and buying more repurposed products.🌱