• Sara Strachan

Save Our Reefs

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

Why Protect our Coral Reefs?

Coral reefs only cover 0.0025 percent of the ocean floor, however they generate half of Earth's oxygen and absorb nearly one-third of the carbon dioxide generated from burning fossil fuels.  For this reason alone it is so important to protect this delicate ecosystem. 

Coral reefs contain the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Here are just a few other things Coral reefs provide:

Provide a buffer , protecting coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action, tropical storms and floodsprovide habitats and shelter for numerous marine organismsspawning and nursery grounds for important fish species; are the source of nitrogen and other essential nutrients for marine food chains

What is coral bleaching?

Fluctuations outside of the normal water temperatures can result in coral bleaching. When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to bleach and turn completely white.  When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and can die as a result. 

In 2005, the U.S. lost half of its coral reefs in the Caribbean in one year due to a massive bleaching event.  Satellite data showed that the thermal stress from the 2005 water temperature increases were greater than the previous 20 years combined.  Data from aerial surveys and dives on the Great Barrier Reef have showed that 93 percent of the world’s largest reef has been devastated by coral bleaching. This has been put down to record warm waters driven by El Niño and climate change.

Not all bleaching events are due to warm water though,  in January 2010, cold water temperatures in the Florida Keys caused a coral bleaching event that resulted in some coral death.

How can we protect our coral reefs?

Avoid touching the coral

With growth rates of 0.3 to 2 centimetres per year for some of the really big corals, and up to 10 centimetres per year for branching corals, it can take up to 10,000 years for a coral reef to form from a group of larvae.  With this in mind we should be careful not to damage these slow growing eco systems.  Propellers and anchors can break apart coral, destroying years, if not decades, of coral growth.  Negligent or unaware snorkelers and divers can also harm corals by touching and standing on them. Even if a coral doesn’t seem to be visibly harmed, human touch can make them more vulnerable to death and disease.  Therefore if you are on a boat trip, enquiring about one or booking through a travel agent, ask if the boat drivers use fixed moorings or throw out an anchor.  The more this subject is raised as being a reason to book a trip or not will influence practices – vote with your feet and support companies who recognise the importance of not throwing out anchors in coral areas. 

Don't litter and take three for the sea

Rubbish can smother corals, they are living organisms and very susceptible to harm.   Littering can

also harm the fish that populate the reefs.  Therefore avoid single use plastics, dispose of rubbish properly and take any rubbish away that you see on the beach, even if it’s not your own.

Wear Reef Safe Sunscreen