Coral reefs are the richest biodiversity in the marine ecosystem and are home to many beautiful organisms. They are also the primary source of protein for more than 10 million people worldwide, and associated with coral reefs economic activities (mainly fishing and tourism) – the main source of income for millions more people. Obviously, the destruction of these ecosystems would have dire consequences for mankind. And yet, today there is serious deterioration of coral reefs. In some places there is a large-scale destruction of reef ecosystems, and we face a real risk of destruction of coral reefs worldwide.
But there are also the good news: today we know what can do along with the international community to protect and restore the stability of coral reefs to external influences, in particular their ability to maintain their integrity at the changes in the environment, the natural life of any component of the ecosystem. We need to stop global warming, while helping save coral reefs ability to overcome the effects of external influences.
Global warming and pollution are among today’s threats to coral reefs. But recent studies show that the problem has arisen before, when people began to destroy the top marine predators and large herbivores. This process started thousands of years ago in some places, and only a century or a little less in others, according to Coral Reef Crisis: Causes and Consequences (2000).
Regardless of geography studies, researchers found that the destruction of reef life is one and the same scenario, as it were, following down the food chain. First, people consume, large predators such as sharks and large herbivores, which are easier to catch and kill, and who have a tendency to slowly rebuild the population. They are followed by smaller animals, such as small fish, crustaceans, etc. And, finally exterminated by the algae, corals and other so-called “architectural” inhabitants of coral reefs.
Great Barrier Reef, as some believe, is the ancient beginning of destruction. And it actually took only about a third of the way to an ecological collapse. The research provides the world’s coral reefs, the custodians of evaluation criteria – they can determine how far their particular reef system has progressed to the environmental path, “continued disappearance.”
One of the unique aspects of the activity of hurricane waves is the destruction of coral reefs. It achieves extremely large sizes. The reason for this is the structure of the reef. The upper part of their constantly exposed to the waves, and to live it the most stable groups of corals and hydroids, which have a massive skeleton. Merging with each other, they form a continuous, dense cover, well withstand the shocks normal waves.
Coral reefs in recent decades experienced a catastrophic stage of degradation. The reason – is the disease of corals, causing them to wither away and overgrowing algae. Oceanographers from the United States conducted a series of studies reefs around the Philippine islands. They found that the number of coral diseases in the less than more diversity of species of fish living there. Reefs in protected waters have a healthier ecosystem than where fishing is allowed. In a statement of the organization “Greenpeace” was stated that today more than 60 percent of coral reefs on the planet are threatened with extinction. Several reasons for this phenomenon are hiking, fishing poaching, pollution, mangroves, but in the first place – is global climate change, according to Reef relief (2011).
Group Greenpeace predicts that global warming could cause the destruction of half of all coral reefs on the planet. “If no action is taken to protect them, even before the start of the second decade of the XXI century, the number of missing the richest ecosystems on the planet will increase by 50 percent”, according to Greenpeace.
For the protection of coral reefs to act there are two fronts. The first is obvious: to minimize global warming, observe restrictions on anthropogenic emissions set by the Kyoto Protocol. As for the second, it is necessary to restore the ability of coral reefs to adapt to changes in the environment and improve their chances of survival, what can be done by prohibiting fishing of those species of fish that are kept under the control of the spread of the algae, thus helping to restore coral populations after bleaching. Recovery periods allow the corals to adapt to higher temperatures. If there are no fish, the dominance of algae will prevent recovery of corals.
Because of the fact that the corals are a natural structure, which determines the life of other organisms living on the reef, reducing the size of coral cover leads to a significant reduction in biological diversity reefs. Pollution by nutrients and toxins brought by from the land is further weakening the ability of coral populations to recover, providing the algae a competitive advantage.
Scientific studies indicate that to achieve the required level of efficiency, 30-50% of existing coral reefs need to get the status of protected areas. This figure far exceeds the level of protection of coral reefs, even those provided by rich countries like the U.S. and Australia, where today there are protected by less than 5% of the total area of coral reefs, according to Seacology (2011).
Taking into account the scale of global threats to coral reefs, the reaction of the international community has so far remained very slow. But, fortunately, there has been some progress. Recently, the Australian Government has made a proposal to increase the size of protected areas within the Great Barrier Reef to 30% and higher. If the Government’s proposal is accepted, will be a new world standard, which may cause other states to follow the lead of Australia. On this depends the future of tropical marine ecosystems and the millions of people whose lives are inextricably linked with them.
Coral Reef Crisis: Causes and Consequences (2000). Retrieved June 25, 2011 from http://www.aaas.org/international/africa/coralreefs/ch1.shtml
Reef relief (2011). Retrieved June 25, 2011 from http://reefrelief.org/
Seacology (2011). Retrieved June 25, 2011 from http://www.seacology.org/?gclid=CMiZ-6Dx0KkCFc0P3wod_wS8Mw