Impact on species
The reefs are a home for many marine species, and many rely on the reefs for their survival.
Hawksbill sea turtle
- The hawksbill sea turtles live in the reefs, so when the reefs are destroyed, their home and source of food are destroyed with it.
- The hawksbill sea turtle eats sponges, urchins, barnacles, algae, sea grasses, and other marine wildlife. These organisms also live in the reefs, so, as they don't have anywhere to live, the hawksbill sea turtle loses its source of food.
- They use the reefs for a shelter as they sleep, protecting them from predators.
- One of the primary foods for the butterfly fish is coral, so as coral becomes harder for them to access, not only do they lose shelter, but they also lose a source of food.
- Butterfly fish use crevices in coral to hide from predators.
- Staghorn coral is considered a threatened species of coral, and it's easy to guess that coral reef destruction will have a large impact on coral.
- According to NOAA, some of the most prominent threats to this species are sedimentation and bleaching. It is inevitable for the coral to have some threats, but it is impractical for the population to be effected so greatly by human actions.
- Not only does coral bleaching harm the coral by stopping the algae from providing energy, it also makes it harder for the coral to fight of diseases, which is considered the biggest threat to the species at the moment.
- IUCN states that the staghorn coral population has reduced by at least 80%, or as much as 98%, in the past 30 years, and that it is very important to monitor the specie's growth.
- Similar to staghorn coral, pillar coral have a high risk of disease, and the bleaching weakens their immune systems.
- Over-fishing is another threat to pillar coral, because, when the fish don't eat the abundance of the algae on the coral, the algae suffocates it.
- Elegance coral are also at risk because of human actions. The main reason why this species is at risk is because they are taken for tourists to buy, and, according to EDGE, they are taken because of a "nature trend.
- In the South China Sea, elegance coral has been reduced by 80% in the past 30 years, and humans are part of the reason why.
What We can do
- Although the damages done to coral cannot be reversed, there are steps that we can take to aid in the recovery of the ecosystems, and to avoid harming them more.
- Although it doesn't seem like much, the more people who know that this problem exists, the more people who will work on solving the problem, and the more people work to reduce contributing to the problem. If tourists were informed about the effect that their purchase of a piece of coral has on the environment, they are much more likely to avoid the purchase. It's hard to try to save an ecosystem when people don't know that the problem exists.
Simple steps that Everyone can take
These steps are small scale, and most aren't able to actually help recover the damaged reefs, but they help avoid contributing more to the destruction of the reefs.
- If you go diving, don't touch the coral
- Make sure that any coral you buy is harvested legally
- If you are boating, don't anchor in the reefs
- Reduce pollution
- Educate yourself on the seafood you get to see if it was caught in a way that is harmful to the environment
- Conserve water to reduce runoff
- Contact government officials
- And this link has a list from NOAA of more steps you can take to prevent reef destruction
Larger scale solutions
- Pollution is factor that has a huge effect on the health of the whole ecosystem. Australia has millions of dollars invested in improving the water that flows into the Great Barrier Reefs. Other countries can, and have been taking similar steps to stop the destruction of the reefs.
- According to the Australian government, the steps that they have taken have already gotten results, and have "halted and reversed the decline in water quality."
- There are now areas of the coral reefs that are government protected in the American coasts and around the world.
- There are systems set to closely monitor the reefs, and the health of the reefs is documented and give a warning before the reef condition gets worse.
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