The Coral reefs are dying and getting bleached, but what is the fuss about it? I mean, they are in the sea and I have never dived to see one in person, neither have I met anyone who has. So why does it matter?
I spent the last couple of days extensively researching about Coral reefs. I knew they were important from an ecological point of view, but I never really had a grasp of the magnitude of their relevance. Before dwelling on the relevance of coral reef deaths, it is important to get a clear picture of what Coral reefs are.
Coral reels are made of Calcium Carbonate (Think of limestone, gypsum or natural chalk). This means they are soft stone like and they grow in colonies. They are neither plants nor stones considering they are stone like. Being mostly stationary, how then do they feed? Corals live in a symbiotic relationship with algae which undergoes photosynthesis and provide nutrients to the coral. This makes the presence of sunlight essential for coral reef survival.
They serve as shelter to 25% of sea life and organisms. Think of it like where the party is happening underwater, for this reason, several other sea organisms are found near the reef seeking food and prey. Losing coral reefs mean losing the organisms that take shelter in them, which in the long run will mean losing the other species higher up the food chain that feed on these organisms. This may cause a lack of seafood for people living in island regions.
Corals are also temperature sensitive, increased sea temperature is becoming unbearable for corals and causing them to die or get bleached. (see image below). Reports already show that almost 50% of the great barrier reef are bleaching.
Apart from lack of food to inhabitants of small islands, lets talk economics. Coral reefs attracts tourism to a value of almost $10 billion per year. Meaning thousands of jobs and business will be lost with the loss of coral reefs.
Scientists are already working to cultivate corals which have a higher resistance to temperature and introduce them into the oceans; from an ecological perspectuve, introduced species could then become invasive and colonise the ecosystem.
The question remains, are corals worth saving and at what cost? Is the world moving fast enough to save the reefs?