Importanceof Coral Reefs
Importanceof Coral Reefs
Inrelation to EGS, this paper looks at what really coral reefs are andtheir importance not only to the aquatic species but human life aswell. Coral reefs are among the most different natural environmentson earth. As noted by Mora (2006), these structures are as well veryold and are composed of complex systems. They fall under the categoryof entozoans, which is the largest class of Cnidaria phylum. Coralsprovide a protected environment as well as the components necessaryfor photosynthesis. In this case, coral reefs contain a mutual algainside their cells. Their relationship is a symbiotic one. There isone island that is in a geographic area which facilitates the growthof coral reels (Wallace, 1999). This island is Moorea Island.
Coralreefs are of great importance to aquatic species and also human life.There are various things that can impact the growth and destructionof coral reefs (Wallace, 1999). There are natural impacts as well ashuman impacts that cause threats to reefs. As noted by Mora (2006),change in climate affects the ocean temperatures as well as supply ofnutrients and many other factors. From McKeown (2010), these eventsin turn have an impact on the manner that aquatic species survival.Aquatic organisms, to some extent, are responding more rapidly toclimate change by moving towards the poles, thus altering aquaticfood webs and causing an impact on animals and plants that aredependable on them (Riegl & Piller, 1999).
Bydefinition, coral reefs can be referred as different ecosystems foundunder the water, which is primarily joined together by calciumcarbonate, as its build by the existence of miniature animals thatare found in the water. A large number of the coral reefs are madeof stony corals. The coral reef has become an essential substance inthe ecosystem of the earth. The coral reef ecosystem has become apositive feature as it provides humans with economic gains as well asenvironmental services in the form of food, as well as a touristattraction (Greet Barrier Reef). In many cases, the coral is mistakenfor a plant or a rock, however, a coral is made of tiny and fragileanimals referred as coral polyps. The term coral will be used in thispaper, to refer to these animals, and their skeletal remains theyleave behind once they die.
Interms of existence, coral reefs are located between the tropics ofCapricorn and Cancer. It’s found in large water bodies such asPacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Arabian Gulf, and the Caribbean Sea.Coral reefs fall between soft and hard corals hard corals have hardskeletons that are calcium based. However, in the case of softcorals, they do not secrete the hard calcium based skeleton (Wallace,1999). Corals are referred as unique animals as they are capable ofreproducing through sexually or asexually. Also known as ‘rainforest of the sea’, the coral reefs are at home to 25% of themarine fish species. Despite their importance towards the aquaticlife, the coral reefs have suffered from human activities, as well asadverse weather conditions, while almost 20% have lost. One of thekey conditions for the existence of the corals is warm water, andthis explains why it’s not found in the colder regions.
CoralReef Formation, Protection against Threats, Natural and Human ImpactsOn Coral Reefs
Coralreef formation entails different processes that occur at differentscales and at different times. An individual coral reef is formedthrough a process of slow deposition and accumulation of mass ofmarine plants and animals in the lime water from the water(seawater). Additionally, the marine life significantly defines thestructural complexities of the coral reefs. Individual coral reefsafter death leaves their skeletons (made of limestone), whichaccumulates over time forming the solid structure referred to ascoral reefs. A reef ecosystem on the other hand is formed from theimpact of the plants and animals remains as well as the geology ofthe area. These features influence the formation of large scale reefstructure.
Protectionof the coral reefs and the threats to reefs Theinitiative towards the protection of the coral reef from the numerousthreats that affects it is all involving, i.e. different aspectshuman, climate, water protection among others, are required in orderto have an effective protection plan. There are numerous initiativesthat can be implemented towards the protection and minimization ofthe threats that faces the coral reefs. One major initiative is waterconservation, this helps reduce water pollution, hence reducing thethreat exposed to the reefs. It’s also advisable to reducepollution, and also use only ecological or organic fertilizers whenfarming. Other measures include the implementation of reef friendlybusiness and awareness to educate people on how to save the reefs.People should practice responsible and safe snorkeling and diving,and finally, the relevant forces or bodies entailed with maintenanceof aquatic life should be continually be involved.
Oneof the key threats to the coral reef is the changes in climaticconditions. This due to the fact that, the climatic changes areaccompanied by changes such as change in temperatures, effect onnutrient supply aquatic food chains, which in return not only do theyaffect the distribution but also abundance and migration of themarine life. The impacts to the coral life are affected by bothnatural and human activities (Soliday, 2001). Coral can be referredas part of the diverse ecosystem which serves as a habitat for avariety of organisms. Some of the natural factors that threaten thecoral reefs include storms such hurricanes, climate changes alsoimpacted the reefs. Lastly, there is exposure to cold weather andadverse weather conditions such as El-Niño, all which has threatenedthe existence of the coral reefs. In addition to the natural, thereare also the human induced factors include recreational activities,diving, pollutant runoffs, which worsens the damages caused by thenatural factors (Hearn, 2001).
Coralbleaching affects the marine environment, especially reefs.
Bleachingof corals is one of the key impacts of climate change on our aquaticenvironment. Coral bleaching is basically the fading of coralsbecause of the loss of coloration within the symbiotic protozoa. Itis mostly caused by changes in temperatures and increase in oceanacidification. According to Mora (2006), as bleaching goes on due tostress-encouraged expulsion, the coral reef is made less buoyant tofuture environmental alterations. Rising in sea levels is anothernatural impact of climate change. Rising water levels will have anadverse impact on aquatic ecosystems (Riegl & Piller, 1999). Theamount of light reaching symbiotic plants could be minimized as theseaside environments are already being waterlogged. Oceans arebecoming more acidic after absorbing more carbon dioxide released byhuman activities (Hearn, 2001). This will continue to have a negativeimpact on coral reefs (Soliday, 2001).
Oneof the, major threats to the existence of the coral reefs is theincrease or rise in the sea level. One such impact is the melting ofthe ice and the glaciers, which in return lowers the watertemperature, and in turn inhibiting the growth and survival of thereefs. Continued rise in the level of the water in the sea, leads tothe increase in the death that the coral reefs exist (Riegl &Piller, 1999). The corals best exist at a given depth, and when thedepth is increased, there is a continued damage to the corals.Moreover, sea level is the primary factor that affects or balances ofthe constructive and erosive processes, which are responsible inshaping the reef, affects the waves and ocean current dynamics, aswell as the distribution of the nutrient supply within the reefs.Once the major sea elements are affected, there is a direct impact tothe coral reefs, and the increase of the sea level is a threat to theexistence of the coral reefs (Hearn, 2001).
AcidicOceans Due To Human Activities Causes Harm To Coral Reefs
‘Acidification’is an addition to the coral reef threats, which is classified ashuman related threat. The water body PH, is another key element forthe existence and survival of the reefs. The ocean continuallyabsorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with more than half of thegas absorbed being released from human activities (Mora, 2006). Morethan half of the co2 in the atmosphere is as a result of humanactivities such as burning of fossil fuel. The absorption of the gas,leads to decrease in oceanic pH., of 0.1, which is defined as oceanacidification. An increase in the acidity can be explained by anincrease in the number of H+ions in the water, this in turn leads to an attack on the hardcorals, which are made of carbonate, and this in turn leads to thedegradation, which leads to degradation of the reefs. Different humanactivities such as the use of the organic fertilizer in farming, hasequally contributed to the acidification of the water bodies. Theacidification of the oceans has been an increased threat to theaquatic life and in turn becoming a threat to the existence of thecorals (Wallace, 1999).
EnvironmentalProblems Will As Well Lead To Threats To Coral Reefs.
Overtime, there has been an increase in the number of environmentalissues today. These can be referred as harmful human actions on thebiophysical environment. Some of the environmental issues that havethreatened the sea life include human overpopulation. This had led tothe increase in land degradation and industrialization process. Otherissues include hydrology, intensive farming, land usage as well asnuclear issues. The effect of these environmental issues entails amassive climatic change which in broader side has been a negativeclimatic change (Mora, 2006). Some of the negative impacts associatedwith environmental issues and the climate change are the globalwarming, a rise in sea level, greenhouse gases, ocean acidification,all of which has negative impact of the coral life. Other negativeimpacts associated with the mentioned environmental issues includepollution, depletion of resources. The environmental problems mayhave either direct or indirect impact to the coral reefs. They havebeen a threat to the existence of the coral reefs, in turn reducingthe entire sea ecosystem (Soliday, 2001).
HumanImpacts of Coral Reefs
Differenthuman actions have different impact on the existence of the colareefs. Human activities such as diving and farming andindustrialization have been categorized as threats to the existenceof coral reefs. Through the burning of the fossil fuel by human,there has been an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide gas in theatmosphere, and in turn, increase in the amount that is absorbed intothe water. This leads to acidification of the water bodies which hasbeen a threat to the reef ecosystem. However, despite the humanactivities posing threat to the coral reefs, there has been formationof initiatives to save and protect the coral reefs. This has beenthrough environment conservation programs, as extinction of the coralecosystem would be a devastating impact to the aquatic life (Mora,2006).
Thereare different forms of refs in existence globally. One of the commontypes is the FringingReef,which grows from the shore seawards. Their main areas where they canbe found are along the shoreline. From the fringing reef and Atollreef is formed, which is circular with a lagoon at the middle.Moreover, there are the BarrierReefs,which are like the fringing reef, despite the fact that, they growaway from the shores (Riegl & Piller, 1999). There are also thecoral reefs, which are the main known reefs, as they give an economicadvantage through tourism. Coral reefs have both environmental andhuman impact. Towards, the environment, they provide a habitat for agood number of aquatic fish species, and other animals. Not only doesit impact the environment but also impacts human activities. This isdue to the fact that, the features acts as income generating tools asthey attract tourists (Riegl & Piller, 1999).
Theexistence of the coral reefs has been a positive aspect towards thefishing industry. This is due to the fact that, the reefs providesfood to the different species of fish in the water. Additionally,coral reefs have been a positive aspect towards ecotourism as itserves as tourist attraction feature (Soliday, 2001). Millions ofdollars has been generated from reef tourism. However, differenthuman activities have posed a threat to the benefits associated withcoral reefs. Practices such as overfishing, mangrove cutting,pollution of water through rubbish and litter as well as chemicalpollution has greatly contributed to the degradation of the coralreefs. Despite its tremendous benefit to the people, coral reefs haveboth positive and negative impacts towards human and animal health.One of the benefits is that, the reefs has been used as food, as wellas used for their medicinal value (Wallace, 1999). However, despitethis, divers and animals can be entangled in the coral reefs, henceposing a health hazard. In addition, coral reefs have posed a threatto the water transport, as when the vessels hit them, they can leadto water accidents.
Accordingto Soliday (2001), healthy coral reefs provide a home to over amillion different marine species, including fish. Destruction ofthese coral reefs will make most aquatic species lack a habitat.Coral reefs are also a source of income to many countries. They areused as eco-tourism. They can as well be used as potential treatmentsfor several dangerous diseases. For instance, drugs such as AZT forHIV people is developed from chemicals found in coral reefs (McKeown,2010).
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