Experts estimate that by the year 2050, at least 75% of our oceans' corals will have died off. This is largely due to acidification, warming of the world's oceans, and bleaching.
Is this the future we're heading into, or can we do something to secure our coral reefs? Let’s go deeper into the world of corals in this post.
This is to understand what they are, their natural habitats, their importance to the ecosystem, and the different threats they face today. Let's dive into it.
A Glimpse Into The World Of Corals
What Are Corals?
At the basis of all the coral reefs that we see are tiny bacteria known as polyps. These unique bacteria build the world's corals. Polyps secrete hard calcium, and this calcium builds the reefs into complex structures over time.
Corals and algae have a mutualistic relationship that is vital to both of their survival. The algae provide the polyps with photosynthesis, and in return, the polyps ensure the algae can quickly get rid of waste and stay in a safe environment.
These two organisms coexist and share tissues, but the rising temperature of tropical oceans is threatening their survival. Coral reefs are facing threats from both local and global sources.
Threats To Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are at risk of extinction mainly due to activities by human beings in the oceans and on land.
Here are some of the biggest threats that coral reefs face today.
When people develop the coast, it is no surprise that their activities will affect the adjacent ocean. Actions like dredging, quarrying, overfishing and even boating activities all lead to the destruction of coral reefs.
Let’s hope that this will be done more efficiently to preserve the corals in the ocean.
Pollution originating from land is one of the biggest threats to coral reefs.
Here is how:
When people develop the coast, chances are water will run off into the oceans. Muddy rainwater and runoff from agriculture lead to sedimentation, which in return prevents corals from feeding, reproducing, and growing.
When agricultural nutrients runoff into the oceans, they affect the coral reefs adapted to low nutrient content. An excessive amount of nutrients leads to the overgrowth of algae, which leads to the corals not getting enough sunlight.
Pathogens from poorly treated sewage water and rainwater runoff are also a massive threat to the health of coral reefs. Pathogens lead to the contamination of reefs, and this causes diseases that inhibit their growth.
Trash and plastics, commonly referred to as marine debris, are a significant threat to the health of coral reefs. When people throw the garbage into the oceans, they end up in reefs preventing them from getting enough sunlight and sometimes breaking them altogether. This is a common problem in places with a high human population or rampant fishing activity around the reefs.
When people overfish, they affect the overall ecosystem and change the food web structures. This causes the populations of grazing fish to go down, and their role is to keep corals clean. The outcome is that there will be algae overgrowth, which leads to the depletion of healthy coral.
In addition to this, you will find that some people use blast fishing. This is when anglers blast fish inside the ocean. This leads to damage to the corals and the entire ecosystem. It is a massive threat to the overall survival of coral reefs.
This is another human activity that has become a significant source of threat to the well-being of coral reefs. The harvesting of corals is mainly done for the aquarium industry and sometimes for jewelry production and for many reasons. This leads to their destruction and, consequently, their depletion.
When the temperature rises, the seawater temperature does the same. This leads to the death of algae that are in a mutual relationship with the algae. When the algae die, the corals turn white, which is known as bleaching.
Bleaching is a result of global warming, and this is a massive threat to the growth and health of coral reefs. Severe bleaching eventually leads to the death of corals.
When the ocean chemistry changes in response to human activities and climate change, the outcome is that the water increases its uptake of carbon dioxide. This causes ocean water to form carbonic acid, leading to increased overall acidity in the oceans.
Increased ocean acidification leads to the reduction of dissolved salts. This affects the ability of polyps to produce the calcium carbonate that leads to their growth.
Is There Hope For Coral Reefs?
There is a lot of hope for coral reefs. If the people causing the most damage take a different approach to their businesses and lifestyle, the coral reefs will regenerate, and there will be new hope for them. Change is dependent on the actions of the people for the foreseeable future.
A solution to all of this are indoor terrestrial coral farms. Our next article will go over what the future of indoor terrestrial coral farms looks like.
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