Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Coral Reef: Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Management

Coral Reef: Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Management

The ocean conceals billions of creatures interacting in ways that we never understand completely. In the darkest and deepest parts of the oceans are ecosystems with more diversity than a tropical rainforest. Corals are one of the most diverse and splendid habitats of marine ecosystems. Appearing as solitary forms in the fossil record more than 400 million years ago, Corals are extremely ancient animals that evolved into modern reef-building forms over the last 25 million years. The coral community is a unique and complex ecosystem which includes a vast collection of several biological communities, representing one of the most extraordinary and diverse ecosystems of the world. That is why they are often referred to as the “Rainforests of the oceans."

Coral reefs are an erosion-resistant marine ridge or mound consisting chiefly of compacted coral together with algae material and biochemically deposited magnesium and calcium carbonates. They are made of tiny animals called 'polyps' that stay fixed at one place and are the main structure of a reef. They have a hard outer skeleton made of calcium which provides habitat for a large variety of organisms that rely on corals as a source of food and shelter. Consisting of plants, fishes and many other creatures, coral reefs are home to about 25% of all marine life. There are shrimp, starfish, jellyfish, sponges, sea slugs, oysters, clams, sea water, sea urchins; several types of fungi, sea turtles and many other species of fish.

Coral reefs are fragile ecosystem as they cannot survive beyond 26-27 degree water temperature in water. Less than 0.1% of the world's ocean floor is covered by coral reefs. Their growth rate is very slow. They grow anywhere from 0.3 c.m. to 10 c.m. per year. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef which is made up of over 2900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2600 k.m. off the north east coast of Australia.

The significance of coral reefs cannot be underestimated. While most people never venture far beyond the coast, the coral reefs, deep inside the dark ocean provide a great range of precious gifts of nature which are integral part of our health and economics. By one estimate, the total net benefit per year of the world's coral reefs is $29.8 billion. Tourism and recreation account for $9.6 billion of this amount, coastal protection for $9.0 billion, fisheries for $5.7 billion and biodiversity for $5.5 billion (Cesar, Burke and Pet-Suede, 2003). A great range of medication including some anti-cancer drugs and painkillers come from reefs. They protect shorelines from big waves by absorbing wave energy and also help carbon cycle. They are mine of information as coral reefs and their associated communities of sea grasses, mangroves and mudflats are sensitive indicators of water quality and the ecological integrity of the ecosystems. They endure relatively narrow ranges of temperature, salinity, water clarity, other chemicals and water quality characteristics which can further help local resource managers in developing sound management plans for coral reefs and other coastal and marine resources.

The existence of coral reefs is in peril. They are disappearing for a number of reasons. The precious natural heritage is bearing the burns of two kinds of stresses associated with reef systems: natural and human induced. Fertilizers drained out into oceans promote algae growth which covers the coral and it dies, More CO2 absorption into the oceans makes the water acidic which makes it harder for coral to make their shells. Corals can't live beyond 26-27 degree water temperature; green house gas emission poses a threat to them. Apart from all these things dangerous fishing methods like cyanide or blast fishing put the cat among the pigeons and kill corals,

Although the coral reefs are on the verge of decay yet it's not a tough row to hoe. We can still mull over the current situation and come up with the solution of the problem. By adopting some preventive measures we can save coral reefs. We should eat sustainably caught seafood to protect them. We can decrease marine litter and protect coral reefs by adopting the three "R'S- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle". We can come together and support marine national park. We can inform others about the vitality of coral reefs and the threat they are facing. Though we cannot deny the negative impact of mentioned stress on coral reefs yet every cloud has a silver lining. We should give a right arm to this cause and make a difference.

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