WHY THE REEFS ARE SO VALUABLE FOR THE NATURE?
I saw them, for the first time, in Jordan….the beautiful and mesmerising Red Sea and the accordion of thousand of corals. Honestly, I have never thought that coral reef could be so magical but, yes, it is. The humans are not aware of that extraordinary and authentic portray of marine ecosystem but now and then, the endangerment of the coral reefs is bringing up the issue of conservation and future protection. The coral reefs are more than valuable part of the nature and one of a kind proof that biodiversity has its own secret solutions.
The coral reefs themselves are the labyrinth of marine habitat. They are such diverse and specific network of many species and according to the science, they are home to more than 25% of the marine life but they are also crucial to 330 million people in the world. Those coral structures are actually the pulsing underwater cities that provide shelters for many kind of animals that live in marine ecosystems. It is estimated that this kind of reef actually occupy less than 0,2% of the seabed but it is able to give the environment to more than 4,000 species of fish and hundreds of other species, in 150,000 kilometres long coastline in about 100 countries and territories.
Beside their function in biological infrastructure, the coral reefs have a super role in prevention from coastal erosion, different kind of storms ( hurricanes), and reducing the danger from tsunamis. They have dual effects, on protecting coast from the aggression of the open sea and also protecting the marine life from the human settlement on the coast.
The reefs have delicate influence on controlling the level of nitrogen in the food chain as well as assisting in carbon fixing and nutrient recycling. That is not only good thing about coral reefs, they are also very important for medicine since some elements there could be found and used for developing the medicaments against cancer, many infectious diseases or even against cardiovascular problems. The scientists believe that coral reefs developed specific way of protecting themselves and they are similar to our bone skeleton. Beside that, there are supplements found over there known to be perfect for designing vitamins, minerals and cosmetics.
The place of coral reefs in the book of tourism is also known and well deserved. Not that they only secure job to many who work in fishing industry but also helping the people who are in tourism area. The countries that do have coral reefs are also popular destinations for travellers and those that are enjoying the scuba diving, snorkelling or any other water sport:” The annual value of the ecosystem services provided by coral reefs to millions of people is estimated to be over $375 billion. The coral reefs can indirectly bring economic value to these countries by letting visitors enjoy beaches, eat local seafood, paddleboard and sail. All of this is possible due to coral reefs acting as a buffer against waves, storms, and floods. The downside is when tourism harms the coral reefs it not only affects the organisms and the coral reefs, but local people and their economy who rely on the income from tourism.” Obviously, it is not so easy to find the good balance between keeping on this natural El Dorado and also keeping the flow of tourism, because one is impacting another and vice versa.
They are not just like that named as the rainforests of the sea, because of their significant place in the global marine system but corals are actually animals and not plants, as many people think. They do have specific colours due to the algae zooxanthellae, that is living within them and giving them food and the corals consist of small, colonial plankton- eating invertebrate animals ( polyps). It is interesting to know that the reason they are considered as animals rather than as plants is fact that polyps fit the main criteria that put them into fauna: multicellular, consuming other organisms for food, do have digestive system, they are embryonic and they can move. There are 3 main types of coral reefs: fringing reefs, barrier reefs, and coral atolls. That is why the corals belong to the sessile which means they attach themselves to the ocean floor and build the whole city of living organisms that catch the food with tiny tentacles and form the valuable relationship with algae, forming the water harmony and enabling the fluctuation of ocean life:”In the case of stony or hard corals, these polyp conglomerates grow, die, and endlessly repeat the cycle over time, slowly laying the limestone foundation for coral reefs and giving shape to the familiar corals that reside there. Because of this cycle of growth, death, and regeneration among individual polyps, many coral colonies can live for a very long time.”
Unfortunately, based on the latest research studies, the world has already lost almost 20% of its coral reef wealth. The two factors that play against coral reefs future are pollution and the high temperatures of the ocean ( global warming). These factors cause the coral bleaching, the process where stressed corals expel their cooperative algae and turn into white, without further chance for them to be able to come to the food, due to the absence of the important algae. This all in the big package might increase the sensibility of corals to get the diseases and die.
The step into their protection on the global level is MUST on the international conservation agenda. This must be undertaken from the local governments but also from the side of worldwide authorities in ecology and ocean biology. The legal background of the rules must be clear and with no excuses but this doesn’t mean that we, as individuals, cant do some small things for the great results. Each of us could do something, starting from simple disposing of trash properly, without risk to end up in the ocean and increase the enough bad pollution. Then, when you are visiting coral reefs for a pleasure, please be so kind to use reef-friendly sun protection, if it is needed. The better choice is to use long sleeves and step out from chemicals from sun protection ingredients that might be very harmful to the coral lives. You can also minimise the use of fertilisers, cycling to the work or reduce the stormwater use and actively use and drain the rainwater for the purpose of gardening. There are indeed many baby steps into the direction of ecologically and environmentally friendly life but even more , each of them could be better if you spread the word by your own example.
The coral reefs are our gift from the nature and need to be protected before they are gone with the ocean wind. We still have the opportunity, check it and catch it, before it is too late for tiny ocean inhabitants.