It is with great sadness that I write this article. Our coral reefs are dying, faster than we ever imagined or predicted. In 2016 alone we lost 12,000 square kilometres of healthy coral reefs which represents 38% of worlds reef area and another 20% in 2017. Let me explain a few things first:
What are coral reefs?
Have you ever looked through your snorkeling mask at down and sea beautiful, colorful stones and mini trees moving forth and back along with the currents? Those are corals, SPS (Small Polyp Stony), LPS (Large Polyp Stony), Mushrooms, Soft etc. There are hundreds of species in millions of color combinations. Underwater organisms which contribute to a larger ecosystem by hosting, feeding and protecting other sealife from predators and other environmental elements. The whole system is so complicated but it works, and its works in harmony. It’s like a noisy underwater symphony. A “hidden” Picasso.
How are they dying?
This system in order to live, reproduce and thrive it needs three elements; clean ocean water, stable temperature (24°C-26°C) and plenty of sunlight since they are mostly photosynthetic. Where in case that any of these elements is not right then corals begging to stress out and if not recover then they die off leaving only their white skeleton structure. This “Coral bleaching” occurs when microscopic algae, called “zooxanthellae” which lives in the coral tissue, under high temperature or polluted waters or other stress conditions gets expelled. Since this algae provides the coral with its primary source of food and color, once it gets expelled, then the coral turns brown and eventually bleaches.
To be fair not all bleaching events are caused by warmer waters. In January 2010 in Florida Keys there was a drop of 7°C which caused the same effect.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s, covering an area of more than 300,000 square kilometres is the world’s largest coral reef system. It’s found off the coast of Queensland North-East of Australia and is stretch to over 2,300 km. During the 2016-2017 events around 67% of these majestic underwater sceneries bleach out and more than half of the remaining are struggling to recover.
What can we do?We, humans, tend to live by “if it ain’t broken why fix it”, waiting for a problem to escalate instead of preventing it the first place. National marine organisations already started awareness campaigns on this hot topic. They advice on clean energy and using bio and natural products when entering waters. Sunscreens became so advance on protecting us from harmful rays, that ignored the environmental impact. Well known brands use synthetic chemicals to protect the skin but the same time become highly toxic to sea life. There is a dedicated article on toxic sunscreens in our blog.
Garbage disposal in our seas is another major issue. Plastic and wastes in the sea have risen to an all time record of 100,000 tons each year, and it’s still rising. Some marine life mistakenly passes it for food while other gets trap in it, causing it to eventually die in pain, either from asphyxia or infections.
So, what can we do? Recycle is at the top of list. Use natural or recycled products and even biodegradable where applicable, conserve energy and raise awareness to others. Yes, it’s that easy and Yes, you can contribute too and hopefully we can slowly start balancing nature again.
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