This week is coral reef awareness week! I’ve already done a post on the Coral Triangle so I was wondering what to do for this post but I’ve decided to talk about ways in which WE as HUMANS rely on them because I think a lot of people don’t think about that because we can’t relate that well, especially living in England.
Coral reefs are super important for medicines, most of which are yet to be discovered! This is something everyone in the world can appreciate, especially, in the current circumstances. Some examples of medicines that have been discovered in the reefs are:
Cancer-fighting medication -> flora and fauna
Cancer therapy -> algae
Painkillers -> snail venom
Development of anti-viral drugs -> coral
Development of anti-cancer drugs -> sponge extracts found in the Caribbean
We depend on coral reefs for human survival which is why we NEED to protect them!
2. Coastal protection
Coral reef ridges act as a barrier to reduce wave energy and they do so by 97%. Without them, the wave damage would increase dramatically which would lead to the loss of infrastructure/buildings and therefore lives. They reduce the impact of cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons as well as reducing coastal erosion.
3. Tourism support
Over 100 countries’ economies benefit from tourism due to coral reefs; in just Australia they provide 6400 jobs at the Great Barrier Reef. They generate $1.8 billion globally while over $100 million of that is made by the US per year.
When the ocean warms up and becomes more acidic, it can result in coral bleaching. This is when the symbiotic algae is forced out of the coral due to the unstable changes. The coral loses all of its colour and becomes white and after all the algae is gone, the coral loses its food source and energy and so will starve to death.
The loss of life and colour means that tourism numbers will decrease because snorkelers, swimmers, or divers will not want to visit a dead, broken and colourless coral reef.
4. Fish industry
Thousands of people rely on coral reefs as they provide a place for fish to live and grow up. The Great Barrier Reef generates $1.5 billion per year in Australia just in the fish industry.
Many fish species are only available in coral reefs as they have adapted and evolved over the years. A couple of examples are that they are colourful due to the coral being multicoloured which means they can disguise themselves easily, additionally, fish are streamline so that they can turn easily and quickly away from predators.
Fish rely on coral reefs for food and a space to live. If the corals die, they won’t be able to provide the fish with food and energy so the fish will starve and eventually die too. Moreover, fish won’t be able to disguise as well with a colourless habitat so predators will be able to detect / hunt them easier.
Furthermore, as fish populations go down, the consumers higher up in the food chain will have less food available and so there will be a reduced number and may well be smaller. Coral reefs are known as ‘the rainforests of the sea’ meaning it is a massive and important ecosystem which is very delicate and a lot of organisms rely on it. This obviously also includes us as humans, who eat fish too.
Fishermen who get their fish from coral reefs will lose their jobs which means that human consumers won’t be able to eat fish or as much as they used to. The demand for fish will stay the same or even go up as the population increases but the supply will be reduced and might continue to reduce. This could put a greater pressure on other fish species in other parts of the world.
(Hoping to get one more post about coral reefs out this week…but we’ll see!)
Best wishes, Cx