When many corals grow together in the same area, they create coral reefs. Corals are mainly of two types: hard corals and soft corals. Hard corals, or stony corals, have hard calcium carbonate skeletons that help in building coral reefs. Soft corals are soft and flexible structures with wood-like core and fleshy exterior, which resembles trees or plants. Corals may look like plants, but they are colonial animals, with most made up of thousands of polyps.
Most of the coral reefs are found in shallow, tropical or semi-tropical habitats with warm waters and ample sunlight. However, coral reefs are also found in the deep sea where they get favorable conditions. According to a WWF report, nearly fifty percent of the world’s shallow coral reefs have already disappeared and if urgent measures not taken to address climate change, overfishing, pollution, and significant human-interventions then these wonderful creatures could all disappear.
Why coral reefs are so important?
· Coral reefs cover only 0.2 percent of the world’s ocean, but they contain about 25 percent of marine species like anemones, sea fans, sponges, and sea squirts, as well as fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and many and, are renowned for their biological diversity and high productivity.
· They protect shores and islands from the impacts of storm waves and surges.
· They provide a source of livelihood to millions of people in developing countries and generate revenues for coastal communities from both tourism and commercially valuable fisheries.
· Corals are the ancient animals with origins dating back hundreds of thousands of years.
· Coral reefs provide support to plants and animals which are critical sources of new medicines such as for cancer, heart disease, and other diseases.
Main threats to coral reefs
Climate change: Due to the unprecedented global warming, coral reefs are now one of the most threatened ecosystems on earth. Sea level rise, frequency, and intensity of tropical storms, altered ocean circulation patterns, and increase in temperatures cause mass bleaching of our coral reefs and impact their very existence. Corals cannot survive very low or high temperatures. As the temperature rises, the warm water causes corals to stress and expel their zooxanthellae. This process is known as coral bleaching.
Also, the high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can harm coral reefs through ocean acidification. The higher amount of carbon dioxide can lower the pH of seawater, causing it to become more acidic. When the ocean water is too acidic, corals may struggle to build their skeletons and the base structure. It has been estimated that with current rates of temperature increase and ocean warming, most of the coral reefs will be lost in just a few decades.
Overfishing: The coastal communities rely heavily on reef fishing as a source of their food and livelihood. This affects the ecological balance of coral reef communities and the food chain as, without top tier predators, invasive species are free to move around and destroy the corals. Also, without the smaller herbivorous fish, algae tend to overgrow and overwhelm the corals. This makes the reefs less resilient to stressors and more susceptible to disease.
Coastal development and pollution: Coastal development including infrastructure building and tourism has caused significant damage to the coral reefs. Urban and industrial waste, sewage, chemicals, and oil spills in the surrounding water are also damaging the reefs. Some pollutants such as agrochemicals and sewage increase nitrogen levels in the seawater, causing an overgrowth of algae.
Increase in sedimentation levels: Erosion and mangrove destruction are leading to an increase in sediment in the rivers. The higher level of sediments ultimately goes into the oceans where it damages corals by depriving them of the light need to survive.
Unsustainable tourism: It caused significant destruction to the coral reefs around the world.
4ourclimate is a social enterprise whose mission is to reduce your carbon and plastic footprint 100 pounds at a time. Every product purchased captures 100 pounds of CO2 from our atmosphere. We empower everyone to become climate-positive (climate+) while offering zero-waste lifestyle products for everyone to enjoy.
Every month, 4ourclimate creates awareness on climate change impacts on our ecosystems by launching a specific scented soy candle revolving around that theme. On World Ocean’s Day in June 2020, we have launched the Pink Grapefruit & Rosemary scented soy candle supporting coral reefs restoration project in St. Maarten’s through our partnership with Reef Life Foundation, in addition to capturing 100 pounds of CO2 from our atmosphere.