I was twelve years old the first time I went scuba diving. Ever since, I have begged to go diving on every family vacation. This past summer, an instructor reiterated a warning I had heard many times before-to ensure that I did not disturb the coral while diving. Curious, I asked my instructor why this was so important. He explained to me that any form of physical contact will damage corals beyond repair, especially hitting them with scuba flippers. Many snorkelers and scuba divers are unaware of this and unknowingly damage the corals while swimming. This is not the only danger to corals, which are one of the most intricate and diverse ecosystems on Earth.
Many do not realize how important coral reefs are to marine environments, marine life, and even human life. Humans depend on corals for tourism, fishing, and even ingredients for medicines. Millions of species of marine life around the world depend upon coral reefs to live and vice versa. However, these symbiotic relationships are being threatened, affecting much more than just the coral reefs themselves.
The first piece included in my bibliography, published by the Smithsonian, informs readers on the importance of coral reefs to humans, marine life, and the environment. This piece explains why coral reefs are important to humans, marine life, and the environment. Additionally, this piece reveals what threatens reefs-high temperatures, pollution, erosion, and human activities-and why we must conserve them. Next in my bibliography, Corals and Human Disturbance expands upon the Smithsonian’s examples of how humans harm reefs. This article is perhaps the most important because it enlightens humans on what they are doing to cause harm to coral reefs. Humans mine corals, bomb them for fishing, drop boat anchors on them, and litter and pollute the waters reefs live in. Last in my bibliography is an academic article from a science magazine containing evidence of how rising water temperatures is killing corals. My first source, “Corals and Coral Reefs,” explains that because corals are so important to both marine and human life, these types of coral deaths are an enormous problem. Some corals cannot recover after rising temperatures or human damage, and the ones that can reproduce too slowly to sustain such an intricate ecosystem.
Ocean Portal Team. “Corals and Coral Reefs.” Smithsonian Ocean Portal. Ed. Nancy Knowlton. Smithsonian, 12 Sept. 2012. Web. 09 Apr. 2016.
This Smithsonian article offers a highly informative look at coral reefs. The Ocean Portal team explains the importance of coral reefs to both humans and ocean species, with nearly “one quarter of all ocean species depending on reefs for food.” Coral reefs are considered by many to be the most important ecosystem in the seas. Humans depend on reefs for multiple reasons, including “providing food, protection of shorelines, jobs based on tourism, and even medicines.” This website explains that coral reefs are made up of many diverse kinds of living coral. Coral reefs are only found in shallow tropical waters around the world. Coral reefs reproduce very slowly, and are easily destroyed.
For this reason, conserving reefs is of the utmost importance. The biggest threat to coral reefs is “rising water temperatures and ocean acidification linked to rising carbon dioxide levels.” This causes coral bleaching, or chemically turning the coral white. Soil erosion also damages reefs. Humans can damage the reefs by dropping boat anchors or touching the reefs while diving or snorkeling, causing the coral to die. Preserving coral reefs is important for both ocean life and humans.
Pilcher, Nicolas J. “Corals and Human Disturbance.” Corals and Human Disturbance. UNEP, n.d. Web. 9 Apr. 2016.
Pilcher introduces this informative piece on how humans disturb corals by explaining the basic physical features of coral reefs and how they operate in marine ecosystems. Humans negatively influence corals in many ways. Firstly, corals are mined to be used in construction. This causes many marine animals to lose a home. Next, humans destroy corals with destructive fishing, or dropping small bombs into the water to reveal and stun fish. This fishing method causes craters in reefs. The chemicals in bombs used for this method can also kill corals. Humans also harm coral reefs by polluting the waters they live in. Runoff from both industrial and domestic sources poison reefs. Pilcher also describes how humans damage reefs by port activity, tourism, and even littering.
“The Great Coral Die-Off.” New Scientist 228.3043 (2015): 6. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Apr. 2016.
Last year the “US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared a global coral bleaching event.” Coral bleaching occurs when water temperature rises for more than a one month period. This causes coral to “expel the algae that live inside of them and provide them with food.” After losing this algae the coral will turn white. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration claims that around “38 percent of coral will be bleached this year.” Some corals can recover from bleaching while others cannot, risking around five percent of the world’s coral to be lost. The NOAA believes that coral bleaching can “affect hundreds of millions of people who rely on coral reefs for their livelihoods and for protection from storm surge.” Scientists are hoping that this bleaching event helps corals learn how to adapt and cope in order to recover.