Coral reefs are home to a diverse set of organisms that live amongst one another in harmony. Their colorful combos are home to over 30% of life underwater, providing food, shelter, and community. Due to rising temperatures, their colors have started to fade, causing a pale, sickly effect. Scientists are rushing to find a remedy and save the home of thousands of underwater species.
The Importance of Coral Reefs
Coral is an abundant organism found all around their world. Their ability to form reefs is only possible when in warm and shallow water conditions. The most abundant reef, the Great Barrier Reef, is found in the sunny climate of Australia. It expands more than 1400 miles across the coast, creating a vast land of underwater life. When corals are healthy and flourishing, they form a symbiotic relationship with other species, providing protective shelter in return for food. As waters warm and coral loses its colors, textures, and properties, its ability to provide for species diminishes. As a result, species take off in search of better living conditions, leaving the coral to dry out and eventually die.
On top of providing a home, the coral reef also serves as a protector from waves, breaking them before they can gain enough speed and height to damage coasts and forests. Without these barriers, oceanic storms like tsunamis could destroy coastal areas, taking both human and marine habits along with them.
Coral Reefs and Climate Crisis
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the heated waters are caused by climate change. Climate change is surrounded by controversy, with industries across the world-denying its existence and seriousness. However, it’s changing things right before our eyes, causing the nay-sayers to re-think their stance. Over the last few years, there’s been a push from several countries to implement programs that reduce emissions and promote a greener way of life. While this may restore some coral to its previous lively state, only those with moderate damage can recover. Seriously ill or bleached coral that’s left for extended periods will not be able to recover, dying off and crumbling as they roll up on shore.
Nature’s Breaking Point
Because damage to the atmosphere from harmful emissions is not reducing fast enough, waters do not have time to get back to lower temperatures. Over-exposing coral to warmer temperatures harms them, each degree weakening them and bringing them closer to a point past recovery. Scientists warn that if we continue in this way, the ocean and its coral will not be around much longer. If extinct, it will take a unique and diverse underwater species that we cannot get back.
With the disappearance of one ecosystem comes more, creating a domino effect that could destroy other forces of nature along with it. There are efforts to restore and replenish oceans, including reduction of human waste and consumption. They’re reaching a breaking point that could lead them to extinction, eradicating a form of life as we know it.