Coral Reefs - The Underestimated Natural Resource - Seeker's Thoughts

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Coral Reefs - The Underestimated Natural Resource

Coral reefs are home to 25% of all marine life on the planet. Infact the variety of life supported by coral reefs rivals that of the tropical forests of the Amazon or New Guinea.

 But without urgent action to address climate change, pollution, overfishing and other threats, these beautiful and life- sustaining organisms could disappear.


                                          
Formation
 Coral reefs were formed after the last ice age when melting ice caused the sea level to rise and flooded the continental shelves. This means they are less than 10,000 years old. As coral reef communities were established on the shelves, they built reefs that grew upwards, keeping pace with the rise in sea level. Reefs that did not keep pace became drowned reefs, covered by so much water that it was insufficient for light to penetrate in to water and reach up to the coral reefs. As coral reefs also need the sunlight for photosynthesis. Though polyps do not photosynthesis, but it is done by the red algae which takes shelter in exoskeleton of polyps. So, it is understood that coral reefs show a symbiosis relationship (a relationship which benefits both the species). 

Reason to be Worried
This symbiosis relationship is very important. Factors like climate change, destructive fishing practices, rising temperature, disturbance in water, pollution and acidic rain hamper this relation between polyps and red Algae. 

Due to the strain polyps throw the red Algae out of the exoskeleton. When red Algae is out which is the food creator in the process of photosynthesis goes out and polyp don't get efficient food. When the red Algae leaves the coral reefs, losing its colour and this is called the coral bleaching.

Coral reefs are also found in the deep sea away from the continental shelves, around oceanic islands and as atolls. Most of these ocean coral islands are volcanic in origin. The few exceptions have tectonic origins where plate movements have lifted the deep ocean floor on the surface.

Importance of Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are important for many different reasons aside from supposedly containing the most diverse ecosystem on the planet.
 They protect coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms.
-      -They Provide habitats and shelter for many marine organisms.
- They assist in carbon and nitrogen fixing in ocean.
- They help with nutrient recycling.
- Coral reefs also work as huge carbon sink that means they impact positively on greenhouse gas- Carbon dioxide 


The study of coral reefs is important for providing a clear, scientifically-testable record of climate events over the past million years or so. This includes records or recent major storms and human impacts that are recorded by the changes in coral growth patterns.

What are the main threats to coral reefs?

Coral reefs have survived tens or thousands of years of natural change, but many of them may not be able to survive due to human destruction.

One-quarter of coral reefs worldwide have already been damaged, another two-third also are under serious threats. there are various factors which disturb the coral reef formation and some of them are given below: -

1-Climate change – Constant change in climate is a major cause of coral reefs disruption. Corals cannot survive if the water temperature is too high. Global warming has already led to increased level of coral bleaching, and this has been predicted that coral reefs will be more threatened or perhaps will not survive at all. This again will lead to further chaos.

2-Destructive fishing practice- Unsustainable fishing practices cause further harm like coral blast or dynamite fishing, bottom trawling, and banging on the reef with sticks. Bottom- trawling is one the greatest threats to cold-water coral reefs.

Pollution – Water pollution is one among the major reasons of disturbing the ecological environment of coral reefs.  urban and industrial waste, sewage, agrochemicals, and oil pollution are poisoning reefs. These toxins are dumped directly into the ocean or carried by river system from sources upstream. Some pollutants, such as sewage and runoff from farming, increase the level of nitrogen in seawater, causing off their sunlight. as nitrogen helps in the rise of Algae bloom that means the Algae covers the surface of the water that stops sunlight from going in to water. this means photosynthesis will be hampered in to water ecosystem.

Conservation of coral reefs
Coral reefs are fragile ecosystems. As these are very sensitive about their environment. Their importance does not stand up to the fish and oceanic ecosystem, human gets various fishes which edible due to coral reefs. Therefore, if all the parameters of climate are taken in to consideration, this is predictable that in upcoming time the human population will rise. They will need more food which includes the heavy diet of fishes. Another aspect is the coral reefs maintain the healthy ecosystem of ocean, tempering with coral reefs may impact water cycle and the oceanic health which again may turn the living atmosphere of the earth into something very bad. There may be another chaos like coastal erosion or water can be cloudier. so, it is hard to predict that what will be the exact consequences, but conservation of coral reefs is very important. 

Scientist are working to preserve coral reefs- in some parts they have been constructing unique artificial reefs to rehabilitate the coral reefs in damaged area.

Artificial reefs are designed primarily for providing habitat for marine wildlife.

LMMA or locally managed marine protected area can play a healthy role in conservation of coral reefs