Our underwater landscape is rapidly disappearing. The Coral Reef, a once beautiful array of color and beauty is becoming scarce as pollution and other factors create an inhospitable habitat. Coral Bleaching is shocking divers as the once vibrant coral turns shades of white and fades into a dead brown. This widespread bleaching is recorded to be the longest in history according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with its reach from Florida to Australia, home to the Great Barrier Reef.
The disappearance of coral reefs not only effects tourism and diver perspectives, but also animals that called the reefs their home. Millions of fish and other marine wildlife live within the reefs and are suffering along with the dying coral. Reefs are home to a quarter of marine wildlife causing worry among biologists that not only will the reef be lost, but numerous species of fish will be as well. This caused the coral wasteland to not only look like death but smell like it too. Animal remains are plentiful around the reefs causing the area to smell like decomposing biology to divers.
The Coral Reef makes up about 1% of the ecosystems on Earth. Although this seems like an insignificant number, the reef itself holds about 25% of marine animals. This loss of sea life not only hurtS the ecosystem but also causes financial impacts in areas that thrive on the coral reef for tourism. The reef is also useful in protecting coastal shorelines against flooding, potentially dangerous currents and hazardous waves. Without the reef, coastal cities could be at risk of experiencing more frequent flooding. Coral disintegration and their loss of healthy color is due to a variety of factors that stress the animals and cause them to become sick and die.
Coral bleaching occurs due to a number of natural and human-caused stresses. Increase in intensive sun-light on the water’s surface due to climate change causes water temperatures to increase which is a major cause of reef conditions disintegrating. Temperatures are predicted to only increase with the passage of time, which signals to biologists that the chances the reef will rebuild on its own are very slim. Pollution from water run-off releases unnatural material into the water that causes the growth of algae blooms on the coral. The algae suffocates the coral and prevents oxygen from reaching reef. This makes the coral very vulnerable to disease and harms the ocean life that inhabits the reef. This prediction caused biologists from marine organizations to take matters into their own hands to save the dying coral population.
The Coral Restoration Foundation is taking a big step in how they deal with coral reef population losses. Harvesting and replanting multiple coral species off the coast of Florida, the Foundation uses an asexual technique that allows coral to grow quickly in an effort to repopulate dead sections of the reef. During the process of propagation, a section of coral breaks off. If it lands in an area that is favorable for re-population, a new colony is formed. The Foundation is taking advantage of this natural process in offshore locations with the goal to boost coral population numbers. They have around 40,000 coral plants in their nursery and have planted over 20,000 different species of coral in 2014 off the coast of Florida.
There are many things we can do to protect and help rebuild our coral reefs. One of the easiest ways to help rebuild coral reefs is to find and donate to an organization that serves this purpose. If you live in a coastal community, planting trees in your neighborhood can help prevent runoff into the ocean which could potentially damage the remaining reefs. Just being environmentally conscious about your role in conserving the reef and being a safe observer can help conserve our beautiful underground forest.
By: Katelyn Goetten