Water And Oceanography

Coral Reefs

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"Coral Reefs"
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Continual damage to the world's coral reef colonies is having a detrimental effect on the ocean's delicate ecosystem. Marine mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and numerous sea creatures live in or around the coral reefs. The death of coral reefs results in the loss of a habitat, feeding ground and breeding area for thousands of unique and diverse species.

Approximately ten percent of the world's coral reef population has been destroyed with a further thirty percent currently in the process of being damaged beyond repair. If the damage and degradation to the coral reefs continues at its current rate it will result in over fifty-five percent of the reefs being significantly harmed without the hope of rehabilitation by 2050.

There are numerous reasons for the degradation of the world's coral reefs. The threat to the world's coral reef population can be linked to the following occurrences:

1. Pollution
Pollution is one of the major causes of coral reef degradation and destruction. There are a variety of pollutants responsible for the weak and vulnerable state of the coral reefs including oil, gas and pesticide contamination. Coral reefs become vulnerable when various pollutants are dumped or leach into the ocean waters.

Another major pollutant is those generated by the human population. It is a common practice in many countries to drain sewage unfiltered into the ocean. The sewage ends up in or around the coral reefs causing damage and degradation to the coral colonies.

2. Fishing Practices
Current fishing methodologies occurring around the coral reefs are causing the extreme degradation to the coral reef colonies. Cyanide fishing and blast fishing are two of the most destructive practices affecting the reefs today. Cyanide fishing involves the process of inserting cyanide into the coral crevices to stun and catch the fishing living in the area. Many times the coral polyps and smaller fish are killed by the chemical effects of the cyanide. Blast fishing simply breaks apart and destroys the coral reefs living on the ocean floor.

3. Sedimentation
Global development and an increasing human population have affected the health of coral reefs. Construction, mining, logging, farming and fishing practices have lead to coastal erosion the run off of sedimentation into the ocean waters. The sedimentation has been carried by the currents into the coral reef habitat. This build up of particles has covered the corals and restricted the sunlight from reaching the reefs. As a result the coral reefs do not have access to adequate amounts of sunlight which is needed for their survival.

4. Ocean Warming and Coral Bleaching
Coral reefs require specific environmental conditions for optimal growth and sustainability. Coral reefs prefer water temperatures ranging between 2229 C. Global warming affects the water temperature and causes an increased amount of carbon dioxide to accumulate within the atmosphere. The excess carbon dioxide reaches the water and weakens the skeletal structures of the coral. In addition as surface temperatures increase due to global warming the water temperatures also increase. The temperature variance stresses the coral reefs resulting in the expulsion of algae living within the coral. Algae are necessary for coral to survive as they provide the coral with their color and life sustaining energy. The expulsion of algae results in a weaker and more vulnerable coral reef. Not only do they change color and appear white or bleached but they also lack the energy needed to survive.

5. Disease
Currently there are over thirty different coral diseases recorded by scientists. These coral reef diseases occur as a result of bacterial, fungi and algae activity. Over the past twenty years over seventy five percent of the world's coral population had been impacted by disease.

More about this author: Krista Tannahill

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