The End of Coral Reefs

By Gabby

Over the short period of the 21st century, the globe has seen a mass increase in globalisation and population growth. This has resulted in an international ‘boom’ in all industries as there is a much larger market where products can be sold.  However, this has resulted in valuable eco-systems being ransacked. Over population has meant that deforestation has become much more common, with thousands of square kilometres of trees being cut down every day to feed the growing human race.  This not only damages fragile and intricate ecosystems but it is damaging our own future.

In the last 50 years, humans have been unknowingly destructing the complex myriad of “underwater rainforests” by putting them under a vast amount of strain. With the problems of over fishing, dynamite fishing and the ever looming concept of global warming, the sea’s temperature has risen hugely. Scientists have stated that as much as 50% of all coral reefs globally have been lost over the past 30 years, with no improvement in the amount of greenhouse gases internationally, this figure is expected to shoot upwards: by the end of 2070, 90% of all the coral in the world will have disappeared forever. As a result this 10% will become vital for conservation but the underwater eco systems will never be able to thrive in the same way again.

But why is this such a worrying figure?  Surely we should be much more concerned about the rate at which deforestation is occurring?  

Indeed, while coral does not cover the same surface area that great rainforests do, they are considered to be as vital. Not only do these vast calcium structures support complex life cycles and ecosystems that amount to a quarter of all marine species, they support half a billion people around the world. Not only this, but coral provides a small amount of the oxygen that we breathe and their life saving chemical properties have allowed scientists worldwide to solve global epidemics such a finding cures to cancer.

Although the public is beginning to understand the importance of coral, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is expected to dramatically increase despite the greenhouse gas emissions figures that Nations have decided to maintain at the recent Paris conference.  Some sources state that by 2050, global temperature will increase by 2 degrees Celsius. This is an astonishingly large figure that will result in more coral bleaching, reducing ecosystems to nothing as the organisms that allow coral reefs move on– removing the gem colours that are so distinctive to coral. The increasing global temperature will result in an increasing amount of ocean acidification. This means that as the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide, acid levels will rise, resulting in, corals becoming increasingly rare on reef systems. As corals are a result of the accumulation of calcium carbonate, ocean acidification could pose a deadly threat, thereby resulting in the loss of critical habitat and coastal protection. 

The first to be affected with the extinction of coral will be millions of the world’s poor that rely on the rich fishing nurseries that coral systems provide. Economically, coral provides a huge market for both tourism and fishing as well as for medicinal research companies. The state of coral reefs is a telling sign of the health of the seas. Their distress and death are yet another marker of the ravages of global climate change. Without these idyllic habitats, the world will see a huge pressure in the food market. There will be a huge humanitarian crisis due to the lack of the life giving resources corals provide for the half a billion people that rely heavily on these miraculous ecosystems.

Unless drastic action is taken, these underwater havens will disappear forever.