Coral Reef Destruction

Credit: Licensed Image (DP)

There are many important direct and indirect factors that can lead up to coral reef destruction. Whether we’re talking about ships, direct contact by humans or various indirect means such as discarding harmful chemicals into the ocean, physical destruction and coral reef bleaching is often caused by human intervention, and there are dire implications to consider. While only three incidents of coral reef bleaching were recorded near the beginning of the 20th century, that number has gone up to 50 in recent decades. This should show how pollution, globalization and the complications associated with climate change can be considered a major threat to the ecosystem and to coral reefs in particular.

Coral reef destruction is often caused by ships that crash into fragile coral reef formations and may cause irreparable damage. While this problem was a significant one in the past as well, global industrialization, the development of new, larger container vessels and the transportation of chemicals that are extremely harmful to the environment has increased the risk of damage exponentially. Add that to the fact that coral reefs are already severely weakened by water temperature and pH fluctuation, and you have a recipe for destruction. Although less significant, shipping threats also exist. Activities such as dredging, propeller washing, anchoring and salvage efforts can also adversely affect the integrity of coral reefs.

Humankind has had a significant impact when it comes to coral reef destruction, and many of the problems that were discovered are direct threats such as the ones involving divers, boats and fishermen. High traffic diving is an important problem that has been identified and limited in recent years. Cyanide fishing is another highly destructive practice that not only destroys reefs, but can also be extremely dangerous for humans and marine life that isn’t targeted for fishing. Finally, pesticides, fertilizer runoff and several other chemicals can also play a significant role in damaging coral reefs.

Chemical spills, the breaking up of larger artificial debris and storm water in areas of high atmospheric pollution can all be pinpointed as major indirect causes for coral reef damage and destruction. Even though some of these issues can appear far away from the affected corals, the currents can often bring damaging particles that poison or otherwise destroy coral polyps – for example, by causing coral bleaching. Coral reef destruction is also caused by global warming, and scientific evidence suggests that human involvement at least indirectly helped to create this significant environmental problem.

Destructive Fishing Practices On Coral Reefs

When it comes to destructive fishing practices, coral reefs can be affected to a great extent because of the devastating effects that these fishing practices can have on the various reef-dwelling animals and the coral reefs themselves. Along with overfishing, destructive fishing is one of the most prevalent reasons for diminishing coral reef populations all around the globe. Since reef fisheries are among the main sources of food in coastal areas everywhere, there are many fisheries that use destructive methods to save time and money, aiming for short-term profit. However, these practices can severely damage coral reef integrity and the coral reef food web in the area, which severely harms the environment, and also leads to rapidly decreasing fish populations.

In terms of understanding destructive fishing practices coral reefs suffer from the most, it’s important to look at the practices themselves and the equipment used in order to make them work. Equipment can include certain types of gill nets and beach seines that not only capture fish, but also damage the surrounding environment, the reefs themselves, and the juveniles that are found closer to the seabed. Cyanide fishing is a particularly destructive method that can not only stun or kill fish, but can also destroy the coral reefs that the cyanide lands on. Finally, dynamite fishing uses explosives to target large numbers of fish. This method is one of the most destructive of all, directly damaging coral structures and often killing off many of the fragile creatures whose presence can make a great deal of difference when it comes to coral reef survival.

In evaluating destructive fishing practices, coral reefs are found to suffer greatly especially because of the physical impact on the reef environment. Dynamite fishing, in particular, can greatly affect the integrity of the calcium carbonate structures built by corals over hundreds of years, leading to the partial or complete destruction of coral reef habitats. Cyanide fishing and other overexploitation practices also have a grave impact on diminishing the number of fish on the reef, and have even contributed to eradicating entire species.

Depending on geographic location, destructive fishing can be more or less prevalent. In Australia, destructive fishing methods are rarely used, and the damage done to coral reefs rarely comes from that particular source. On the other hand, in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, these practices are still not fully under control, and about 60% of the reefs living here are in danger because of destructive fishing. When it comes to destructive fishing practices, coral reefs in Southeast Asia experience a medium-level risk in more than 90% of all cases.

Effects Of Coral Reef Destruction On The Environment

From heightened ocean acidity to the disappearance of mangroves and other coastal ecosystems essential to protecting the plant and animal life residing near the coastline, the effects of coral reef destruction on the environment can be extremely diverse. Virtually everything from the lowering quality of ocean water to the stronger waves and currents damaging landmasses are a result of diminishing coral populations and the increased fragility of coral reef formations.

One of the main detrimental effects of coral reef destruction on the environment has to do with the gradual disappearance of barrier reefs. The recent bleaching events associated with the Great Barrier Reef has attracted attention to the impact that the disappearance of these types of reefs can have on coastal ecosystems. Barrier reefs form a protective barrier that can prevent strong currents and ocean waves from damaging coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and beach systems. As a result, along with their disappearance, all the beautiful beaches, bays and lagoons that benefit from their protection will also be destroyed over time, along with the millions of diverse marine creatures that they house.

The importance of biodiversity is staggering. It ensures the resilience of life, making sure that some species will survive even under the most dire of circumstances. Also, specifically in the case of coral reef ecosystems, biodiversity has a strong impact on protecting and supporting coastal ecosystems. Coral reefs, along with the species of marine animals that they support and protect, also support a balance between oceanic and coastal ecosystems. One of the worst effects of coral reef destruction on the environment is the disappearance of this balance, which can lead to extremely negative effects ranging from barren landscapes and strong storm sweeping through landmasses, to acidic and poisonous ocean water that can also lead to the formation of dangerous giant waves, acid rain and the worsening of climate change conditions.

Many of the organisms that are supported by coral reefs are filter feeders. This means that they filter the water they live in and eliminate unneeded particles to keep waters clean. Detrivores do pretty much the same thing often at a smaller scale, and they are also in charge of eliminating dead matter from the seabed. These activities will no longer be possible if coral reefs disappear. All the animals that support cleaning up the ocean will disappear along with them, and the ocean water will become an extremely inhospitable place over time.

How To Stop Coral Reef Destruction

Anyone who had a chance to practice diving in the ocean has seen the beauty of coral reefs, and can understand the necessity of figuring out how to stop coral reef destruction, even if only from that perspective. Coral reefs also play an important role in the protection of the environment at a global scale, and the survival of millions of species depends on their ability to thrive. So, what can you do to help prevent coral reef destruction? Let’s take a look at some of the main ways that this issue can be addressed.

Some businesses support destructive fishing practices, large scale water pollution and the selling of coral reef products as ornaments. If you want to know how to stop coral reef destruction, the first thing to do is stop supporting these businesses. Get informed on which business and manufacturer gets resources, food and base materials from practices that promote pollution or otherwise harm coral reef environments, and choose to become the client of responsible businesses that are environmentally aware.

If you want a clear guide on how to stop coral reef destruction, volunteering to work for an organization that supports reef conservation activities is certainly one of the best approaches by far. Large organizations like NOAA, PADI and the Coral Restoration Foundation offer excellent opportunities for volunteers who want to help prevent reef destruction either locally or at a global level. Reef cleanup activities, hands-on help on scientific research vessels and actions designed to track down and prevent illegal destructive fishing practices can all help you make a great deal of difference when it comes to stopping coral reef destruction.

Reducing pollution is probably the most essential step to preventing coral reef destruction. Scientists believe that pollution has a major effect on accelerating global warming and coral reef bleaching. Even if this were not the case, pollution through dumping chemicals, trash and dirty water into our oceans has an extremely negative effect on coral reef health. As a result, what you can do is work to conserve water and start recycling. The recycling projects in your local community can use your support, and that support will help protect coral reefs even if you don’t live anywhere near the ocean. Moreover, choosing the right fertilizers, made only from natural compounds, can play an important role when it comes to knowing exactly how to stop coral reef destruction.

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