Abstract Located in tropical ocean waters, coral reefs provide priceless resources to both human and marine life. The leading natural cause of destruction among the coral reefs is global warming. Other natural causes are earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons. The destruction to the coral reefs from these natural disasters is minimal compared to the dangers caused by man. Man-made destruction has a much wider impact on the health of the coral reefs. This destruction includes over-fishing, damage from anchors, aquarium industry, overgrowth of seaweed, and being smothered by sediments.
Are Coral Reefs in Danger? Located in tropical ocean waters, coral reefs provide priceless resources to both human and marine life. They exist in an area about 30 degrees on either side of the equator. Coral reefs are home to more species than any other marine ecosystem. This includes over 1500 types of fish and 500 different types of algae. (Encarta) However, nearly 60% of coral reefs are in serious danger due to both natural and man-made causes. The leading natural cause of destruction among the coral reefs is global warming.
Global warming causes the bleaching of coral reefs to occur. Bleaching is a response to stress by the coral reef that happens when the water becomes to warm. The coral then put out a brownish which causes them to lose their color. Without the, the corals cannot provide nourishment for itself and this can eventually lead to death. (Encarta) Other natural causes are earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons. The destruction to the coral reefs from these natural disasters is minimal compared to the dangers caused by man.
(University of Washington) Man-made destruction has a much wider impact on the health of the coral reefs. This destruction includes over-fishing, damage from anchors, aquarium industry, overgrowth of seaweed, and being smothered by sediments. For example, with the clearing of the rainforest's, more nutrients are being washed into the ocean water which creates murky waters. Corals need sunlight, and with the murky waters they are not able to survive. This is considered natural because it is the nutrients in the land causing the murkiness; however it is also considered a man-made cause because the humans are the ones clearing the land causing the excess nutrients to be put into the ocean water. (Encarta) A solution to this environmental problem is to ease up on the clearing of rainforest's for land.
Due to coral reefs being home to so many types of fish, it is easy for human's to be attracted to this area for many different types of industry. The first problem is over-fishing. As the population continues to grow, and the demand for food (fish) grows, then the fishing industry will continue to fish the coral reefs looking to make a buck. These boats drop anchor to fish which in turn causes destruction of the reefs through physical contact with the anchor.
The Asian fish market demands that restaurants have unique live fish on hand leading to coral reefs being the prime spot for fishing. (Denecke, 2001) Yet another problem related to the fish in this area is the growing demand for aquarium fish. People think that it's really cool to get that unique looking fish for their tank and are willing to pay money to have somebody go get them one. The methods these fish retrievers use causes extreme damage. They use a chemical like sodium cyanide to stun the fish so that the fisherman can gather them for the market place. This cyanide kills the coral reefs, not to mention other things around it.
(Florida A&M Univeristy) (Simpson, 2001) Cyanide fishing began in the 1960's, and since then over one million kilograms of cyanide have been dumped in the Philippines alone. A third problem the coral reefs face is strangulation by seaweed. The over-fishing of the coral reefs leads to a decrease in plant-eating fish. This leads to an overgrowth of seaweed which block the light from the coral causing death to the coral reefs. (Denecke, 2001) Irreversible destruction is occurring to our coral reef system. The majority of this destruction is caused by the human race.
It is important that the people of the world come together to determine how to keep our precious resources in tact for future generations. Resources 1. Denecke, Christ. (2001) Corals Under Siege UNESCO Courier March 2001 p 102. Simpson, Sarah. (2001) Fishy Business Scientific American, July 2001 v 285 i 1 p 82 (8) 3.
University of Washington Website (2002) Group Projects web Florida A&M University Website (2000) Group Projects web Encarta Encyclopedia Online (2003) web.