Coral reefs are the guarantee of a healthy ocean, smooth functioning of marine ecosystems and protection of the coastline. However, all over the world, coral survival is threatened by the build-up of factors, mainly from human activities. Collective awareness is necessary to save this marine habitat.

Corals, a necessary condition to life…

Coral reefs are one of the richest and most complex ecosystems of our planet.

They cover less than 0.2% of oceans’ surface but host 30% of the animal and marine species. Indeed, they accommodate more than 4,000 species of fish, 700 species of corals and thousands of other plants, protecting them from predators and providing them food.

In addition to maintaining biodiversity and its heritage value, corals are a great asset for mankind. They are a food and economic resource for more than 850 million people, who directly or indirectly benefit from advantages that they offer. Real “breakwaters”, reefs are a bulwark against subversive waves, storms, floods, erosion and thus protect the coastlines.

In order to raise public awareness to the value of these reefs and the threats they are facing, 2018 is the International Year of Coral Reefs. This year is the symbol of an international effort to protect these resources. Protection is more than necessary since researchers estimate they will be fully extinguished by 2050, if nothing changes.

coral reef

However, they are increasingly threatened

Already weakened by several phenomena such as pollution, overfishing, mass tourism, ocean acidification and coastal development, coral reefs are now victims of the pressure of climate change. Nearly 60% of the world’s corals are threatened by all of these factors on a direct manner.

A study published last April in the scientific journal Nature drawn particular attention. In 2016, extreme heat damaged Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, world’s largest coral reef, on an unprecedented scale. Qualified as a “catastrophic hecatomb”, this phenomenon triggered the massive death of corals. Over this UNESCO World Heritage site, about 30% of the corals died during this extreme phenomenon between March and November.

This dieback triggered radical changes and disrupted the entire marine ecosystem. Researchers are calling for their protection: “If we continue at this pace, I do not believe that the Barrier will survive,” worries Andrew Baird, co-author of the study.

coral bleaching

Corals, unknown to the general public

Despite they are essential to marine and terrestrial life, the functions and role of these ecosystems are often unknown. Belonging to the animal kingdom, corals have a relatively slow growth rate: it takes about 10,000 years to create a real coral reef. For example, it will take one to two decades for new corals to replace those that did not survive the bleaching episode in Australia.

In addition, they grow almost exclusively in the warm seas, not far from the surface, due to their need for light. Although possible, transplanting corals requires special precautions and several years…

Surfrider partners with Coral Guardian, to offer you a knowledge test on these very rich ecosystemsCoral Guardian is an association committed to the preservation of coral reefs. It works to preserve and restore corals, raise awareness and protect communities that rely directly on these ecosystems. Take the quizz to learn more!

Coral reefs are indispensable ecosystems and are under increasing pressure. 2018 could mark a turning point in knowledge and safeguarding of one of the richest ecosystems on the planet. Nevertheless, only a change in behavior can preserve corals in the longer term.

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