Defend Coral Reefs

By: Katerina Yakusevich

As the race to save the environment continues, many marine biologists focus on the decrease of coral in coral reefs. The reefs have been home to many different organisms for thousands of years, and in a way are their own ecosystem. As they continue to die, the rare and beautiful sea creatures that live there have to venture out into the ocean, and will likely die without any means of protection by the comforts of the reefs. Many people have seen coral reefs around the world die out over the past decade, especially the last five years. Some people write their initials on the coral, which harms them even more and shows how ignorant humans are of the environment.

Many scientists have taken on the task of transplanting corals from different areas around the world to those who need them the most. In Queensland, Australia, marine biologists have recently been able to transplant around 200 corals to the dying “Great Barrier Reef,” despite the government’s protests to let it grow back naturally. The reef had several hundred corals die out due to the affects global warming had on the water- a situation called coral bleaching. They have reached the conclusion that coral reefs will only be saved with the help of human intervention because corals growing on their own take decades, and cannot grow back if the water is too warm. But the real breakthrough has been the fact that corals become more resistant to bleaching in hotter temperatures. “In addition to providing corals with essential nutrients, zooxanthellae are responsible for the unique and beautiful colors of many stony corals. Sometimes when corals become physically stressed, the polyps expel their algal cells and the colony takes on a stark white appearance. This is commonly described as “coral bleaching” (Barnes, R.S.K. and Hughes, 1999; Lalli and Parsons, 1995). If the polyps go for too long without zooxanthellae, coral bleaching can result in the coral's death.” - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Coral bleaching has been happening recently because of global warming. Bleaching is the act of releasing algae that live in the coral to cleanse it, which happens naturally. This atrophy has been increasing because of the ocean’s rise in temperature over the past decade. National Geographics has covered how scientists are figuring out a way to make corals resistant to this bleaching process- because corals and algae are supposed to live together symbiotically, and benefit each other. They realized that when they raise corals in higher temperatures in labs, they become more resistant to heat once placed into the ocean. As we continue this process, we will be able to slow down and eventually stop coral bleaching. But we still need as much help as we can get in protecting and growing coral reefs around the world.

So what can you do to help save the coral reefs? Here’s a small list about what you can do.

 

  • Do not use corals as presents. If you buy a coral from a gift shop, you are only contributing to companies making money off the environment.

  • Contact Save The Bay for volunteer opportunities. 

  • Use environmentally friendly sunscreen when visiting the beach to reduce toxins in the water.