Endangerment of Coral Reefs
Bernardshan (Ben) Mohan
SC/NATs 1840 Science, Technology and the Environment
November 25, 2009
Coral reefs are considered to be the rainforest of the oceans and arguably the most beautiful habitat in the world. Coral reefs are underwater ecosystems where many species such as fish, marine plants, sponges, algae thrive on. As the text, Living in the Environment describes it: coral reefs “are among the world’s oldest, most diverse and most productive ecosystems” (Hackett, 132). Unfortunately, coral reefs are on the endangered list mainly due to human’s involvement in detrimental activities in the past decades. As of now, one-fourth of coral reefs around the globe are lost due to pollution, over-fishing, climate change resulting warmer ocean temperature and coastal development (Hackett, 132). In order to understand why the destruction of coral reefs is a global crisis, it is imperative to outline what are coral reefs and why they are such significant creatures to marine and human lives. Coral reefs are mainly found in warm tropical and subtropical oceans and they are created when large amount of polyps (tiny animals) form a colony. Over time, polyps start to secrete calcium carbonate also known as limestone, which is the building block of the reefs. Zooxantellae, single-celled algae, helps the polyps with food and oxygen and in turn the polyp provides the single-celled algae with a home and nutrients (Hackett, 132). “Coral reefs are essential spawning, nursery, breeding, and feeding grounds for numerous organisms” (NOAA). They also supply jobs, fishing, and tourism industries for humans around the world (Hackett, 132). As mentioned before, the coral reefs are endangered due to climate change, pollution, and destructive and over-fishing practises. This essay will address and explain each impact on the coral reefs and also provide some solutions to these crises. First of all, due to human activities, the rate of global warming has increased which ultimately lead to depletion of the earth’s ozone and increase in ultraviolet radiation. Because of the climate change, the ocean water temperature has risen and in turn causing ‘coral bleaching’ and infectious diseases began to transpire more often (NOAA). According to one website that talks about the destruction of coral reefs, “coral bleaching occurs when the polyps, stressed by changes in temperature or UV radiation, expel the zooxanthellae which are necessary for their survival. This not only “bleaches” them but causes them to lose their colour; it often leads to their death” (plaza.ufl.edu/coralreef). Since coral reefs grow leisurely, they are susceptible to damage and may get disrupted easily. Disruption such as an increase of just one degree Celsius can cause coral bleaching (Hackett, 138). This just goes to show how fragile this under water ecosystem can be. In addition, ocean acidification is another cause of coral reefs being damaged. NOAA mentions how the ocean water absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which makes the ocean to become more acidic (NOAA). When the ocean becomes more acidic, more coral bleaching will be caused and infectious diseases become more frequent. According to NOAA, “climate change and ocean acidification have been identified by many groups as the most important threat to coral reefs on a global basis” (NOAA). While reducing the amount of CO2 and other green houses gases into the environment is the most prominent solution, it is ultimately in the hands of politicians and people that live in developed countries that need to take actions to reduce the green house gas emissions. More people need to educate themselves about such crises and take simple actions, which can add up to make a greater difference. The second major issue regarding the depletion of coral reefs is due to pollution. Our oceans constantly get contaminated because of human activities. Activities such as...
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