If we were to tell you that there is an ecosystem that provides numerous compounds for the drugs which are used for treating arthritis, bacterial infections and even cancer and AIDS, provides $30 billion worth of goods and services annually, and is used as a barrier to protect from erosion, storms, hurricanes and property destruction along the coastlines of the world, would you have guessed that we were talking about coral reefs? So many benefits from something that covers only 1% of our planet’s surface…
These ecosystems are crucial for maintaining the balanced marine world as well as of great value to humankind. One of the crowning stars in the world of coral reefs is certainly the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland, in Australia. This is also the largest coral reef system in the world, covering 350,000 square kilometers and one of the very few reefs that can be seen from space. It is also comprised of 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands.
As the single biggest living structure on Earth, importance of the Great Barrier Reef is immeasurable and its protection from destruction an absolute paramount. The latter, unfortunately, has been substantially lacking and things like pollution, climate change, oil spills, overfishing and even other marine organisms such as crown-of-thorns starfish now pose a great danger to this magnificent structure.
What can be done to save coral reefs?
Recently, the world media have been reporting about a very alarming state of the Great Barrier Reef. A survey conducted only a month ago has found that 95% of the reef’s corals have been bleached over a 1,000-kilometre stretch, i.e. that only four reefs out of the observed 520 were found healthy. The scientists have been doing their part on trying to stop this devastation from spreading and now you can contribute too. How?
- Properly dispose of rubbish / keep the beaches clean – If you are fishing, don’t forget not to leave unwanted fishing lines or nets in the water. Don’t throw rubbish in the water, particularly plastics. Recycle and reuse it to the best of your abilities.
- Be a responsible diver or snorkeler – Make sure that you don’t touch, step on or break off a coral or anchor your boat in its close proximity. Sandy bottoms are the best for anchoring or you can use mooring buoy systems.
- Support the organizations that protect coral reefs and reef-friendly businesses – You can donate the money towards coral reef protection or volunteer in cleanups. It is always better to be a part of the solution than a part of the problem. When on holiday, make sure to inquire what is your tour operator, the hotel or the dive shop doing to preserve coral reefs.
- Take pictures of the crown-of-thorns starfish – As we have mentioned earlier, the outbreak of this particular type of starfish is one of the biggest threats to coral reefs and especially the Great Barrier Reef. Thankfully, the scientists at the Queensland University of Technology are developing a robot that can identify and destroy the crown-of-thorns starfish and you can provide valuable information about these parasites by photographing them and sending them to the University.
- Conserve water – The less water you use, the less wastewater will end up in oceans and seas.
Furthermore, educate yourself about the importance of coral reefs, spread your knowledge, appeal to your local authorities to get involved in reef protection, and report illegal activities on reefs (such as improper mooring, dumping rubbish into the water, illegal fishing etc.). Every bit helps!
The reasons for keeping our coral reefs healthy and thriving are too significant to be ignored. They are great natural resources for food and medicine, they are home to more species per unit area than any other marine ecosystem, they play a crucial role in purification of water and elimination of pollutants and they make valuable economic contribution to lives of millions of people.
To quote one of the greatest oceanographers ever Jacques Yves Cousteau:
The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.
This is a guest post written by Bob Gorman.
Bob Gorman is a freelance writer and a passionate blogger. He likes writing articles that cover home, family and nature related topics. He has written numerous articles and contributed to several other blogs. When he is not writing, he enjoys having a cold one with his wife Lana.