Anyone who has spent time scuba diving and snorkeling out in the ocean knows just how amazingly extensive and intricate coral reefs are. As divers, we appreciate these beautiful natural ecosystems on our planet. Diving among these unique, biologically diverse and complex areas is an incredible experience, especially when all around you is an endless underwater carpet of vivid colors with rich marine life all happily thriving in their habitat.
Reefs make up a tiny percentage of the ocean floor but support more than 800 species of coral and 4,000 species of fish. So it’s safe to say that this ecosystem is vital to the underwater world. But these beautiful structures are important for humans too! Besides providing us with a beautiful scene for our diving adventures, coral reefs are important for many different reasons.
Did you know that coral reefs protect coastlines from the damaging effects of waves and tropical storms? They reduce the damage of storms, hurricanes, and in some way, the energy of tsunamis by absorbing wave energy. Without this protective role, some countries in atolls, such as the Maldives, Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands are literally built on coral reefs and would not exist and without this protective barrier.
Coral reefs are also a vital source of our food supply. According to Coral Guardian, one-eighth of the world’s population, approximately 850 million people live within 100 kilometers of coral and reap the benefits provided by coral reefs. Communities that live in developing countries and island nations and depend on food taken directly from the reef waters. A “well managed” reef can provide between 5 and 15 tons of fish, crustaceans, mollusks and other invertebrates per square kilometer.
So you can understand why it is important to protect our coral reefs from environmental damage. Science has confirmed that global warming is causing a combination of warmer water temperatures and increasing acidity in the oceans. This is causing the reefs to experience reefs to be placed under so much stress that they turn white and experience mass die-offs in coral bleaching events.
“By 2050, we may still have corals, and things we’ll call ‘reefs’, but they will be massive limestone structures that were built in the past, with tiny patches of living coral struggling to survive on them,” says coral ecologist Peter Sale in an interview with BBC.
It is so important, now more than ever, that we do our part to protect the reefs. It may seem like a problem too big to solve, but if we all take steps to be more conscious of the environment, we can have very positive impacts. There are steps, both small and big, that you can take right now to help protect our reef. Some are as simple as changing the sunscreen you use! To help, we have put together this list of 5 ways that YOU can directly help our reefs.
1. Be a Responsible Tourist
Corals on reefs are actually small animals, and they are very fragile and susceptible to damage. People can damage coral reefs simply by touching them, and especially by running boats over them. Contact with things like anchors and fishing nets is a key way that coral reefs die or suffer damage. Make sure that when you go on boat trips, the company is careful about how they approach the reefs. You can also be careful to control your flippers when diving or snorkeling so you don’t accidentally touch a coral reef. If you see this happening, say something! People can assume that because the reef seems sturdy, they can stand on it. It’s easy to educate others on proper reef conservation.
Another way to be a responsible tourist is to be aware of the type of sunscreen you use The oils from the lotion can actually cause coral reef damage. Several common sunscreen ingredients, including oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been shown to be toxic to corals. Look for sunscreens that use non-nano zinc oxide as their active ingredients, as these do not contribute to coral bleaching.
2. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Coral reefs are being directly affected by the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. This is why it is so important to reduce our carbon footprint, not just for the reefs, but for the entire planet. There are several ways to do this. One of the most effective actions that you can take to reduce your carbon footprint is to stop eating meat or reduce the amount of red meat that you consume. Just limiting your meat consumption can make a huge difference. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are an even bigger problem than fossil fuels!
One easy way to reduce your carbon footprint is by unplugging your electronics when you are not charging them. According to Huffpost, anytime a cord is plugged into a socket, it’s drawing energy – so although your device isn’t charging, you’re still contributing to your carbon footprint. Simple solution? Leave your electronics unplugged at all times, unless you’re actually charging them.
3. Leave No Trace
This one is easy. When you visit a beach or go diving, always clean up after yourself and leave nothing behind. This is especially important for single-use plastics that can harm marine life. If you see a bottle or plastic bag on the beach, pick it up! Even if it is not yours, it will eventually make its way into the ocean. Responsible recycling is a great way to reduce your waste.
4. Get Involved
There are many organizations that work hard to stop the destruction of coral reefs. Some even build artificial reefs to replace destroyed or damaged coral reefs! The Coral Reef Alliance, Reef Relief, and Planetary Coral Reef Foundation are examples of private organizations that are trying to save coral reefs. The organizations, and others like them, offer numerous ways for people to get involved. Look up local organizations in your area that are dedicated to reef conservation, and volunteer. This could be a great activity to do with friends, and meet new people!
5. Spread the word!
Education is the key to helping coral reefs. The more you know, the more you can help educate others on how they can help coral reefs. Together, we can make a big difference when it comes to preserving this beautiful ecosystem that us divers have come to know and love. If you liked this article, share it to your social media, and help spread the word on protecting our coral reefs!
About the Author
I’m Harmony Rose, a California native passionate about exploring the world and sharing the craziness along the way. I’ve traveled across ten countries so far, and do not plan on stopping any time soon. This blog is a way for me to use my passion for writing and photography as a way to share my adventures!
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