Coral Reef Threats

The threats to coral reefs are real. Scientists are measuring up to 85% of all coral reefs belonging to the Great Barrier Reef being hit hard by coral bleaching, while other factors can also contribute to damaging or even completely destroying reefs, depending on geographic location. However, not all these threats have been thoroughly analyzed, and some scientists have alternative ideas of what global warming means and what it might lead to. In the interest of impartial scientific analysis, it is essential to take a closer look at all these theories, observations ideas.

Although there is no doubt that global warming is happening, and scientific data suggest that it is currently one of the greatest threats to coral reefs as well, many scientists are beginning to doubt the mechanics of global warming and the idea that it may be greatly influenced by pollution. Whether or not it might be caused by pollution, some theories suggest that global warming might actually be leading up to a new ice age during the next few hundreds of years. Astronomic data seems to confirm that the gravitational tugs coming from the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn can lead to periodic changes in the Earth’s orbit, which may have been responsible for much of what we call global warming today and for the alleged ice age to come. Although the effects of a new ice age on corals can be devastating and other stressors are likely to make things worse, the history of coral reef evolution shows that these resilient creatures have actually been through much worse throughout the past 500 million years.

Also natural, but possibly worsened by the effects of coastal development and overfishing, the presence and damage caused by coral disease and invasive species of marine creatures are also among the greatest threats to coral reefs that are rarely even recognized. Human intervention such as destructive fishing, pollution and the construction of coastal infrastructure, have caused some species to be driven away from their natural environment, leading animals like coral-ingesting starfish to attack large coral formations on a regular basis.

Increased CO2 and other greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere are rapidly leading to rising ocean temperatures and great fluctuations in overall temperatures and ocean currents over a short amount of time. The combination of these factors has already led to bleaching and physical coral reef damage that may be all but irreparable. Also, the impact of CO2 on the ocean can be direct, preventing the process of a decreased efficiency in photosynthetic water oxidation. This is also one of the greatest threats to coral reefs currently known to science.

Global Threats To Coral Reefs

While threats such as bleaching and attacks on coral reef systems by marine animals coming from foreign ecosystems might be localized in nature, they are a product of the major global threats to coral reefs that have only been identified by science during the past century. Climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear testing and the accelerating frequency of coral reef bleaching worldwide are a few of the major causes for concern that lead to coral reef damage and, according to some scientists, might lead to the complete extinction of corals throughout the next 60-100 years.

Greenhouse gas emissions are one of the main global threats to coral reefs that have to be addressed. Although the increase in CO2 and other greenhouse gases seem to be natural, researchers have observed that air pollution was the cause for a significant part of the problem. As a result of these emissions, the oceans are actually absorbing greater amounts of carbon dioxide. The chemistry looks simple on paper, but the implications are dire. The result is a decrease in oceanic pH values that has already led to making organisms such as coral reefs more vulnerable. Acidification makes calcium carbonate skeletons and formations like coral reef structures lose their structural integrity over time. Combined with stronger currents, the threat of disease and increases in human influences, the estimates made by scientists are extremely grim, and some consider that coral reefs will be lost without a trace in as little as a couple of hundred years.

While it used to be seen as a localized problem, coral bleaching has become one of the most pressing global threats to coral reefs in the world. Typically, mass coral bleaching occurs when the temperature of the ocean increases by about 10 degrees above the normal temperature as it was in the past. Increased radiation and heat coming from the sun and long days of calm weather can lead to extreme bleaching events. The bleaching events in 1998, 2005 and 2016 have confirmed these facts, leading to several important coral reef formations being destroyed by heightened temperatures. The Caribbean bleaching in 2005 was the best example, with temperatures higher than they were in the area for the past 100 years.

Finally, nuclear testing is also an important global threat to consider. Nuclear blasts and tests in the Pacific Ocean have caused problems for decades, and when France tested its nuclear arsenal in 1995, many people voiced out their concerns and disapproval. The full extent of the damage done to reefs in the French Polynesia has only been discovered in the past few years, and as a result, many have accepted nuclear testing as one of the worst global threats to coral reefs.

Human Caused Threats To Coral Reefs

There are many concerns regarding human-caused threats to coral reefs. Overfishing practices, tourism, improper diving management, and selling marine animals as part of the global aquarium trade are known as the main human caused threats to speak of. Although seemingly not as severe as the threat of bleaching or having water levels rise in a short amount of time, human threats have literally decimated coral populations in some preciously prosperous areas.

When it comes to learning about human-caused threats to coral reefs, it is essential to find out as much as possible about the most problematic and damaging practices out there in order to inform others and take steps to prevent them. Coral reefs are already severely threatened by the prospect of mass bleaching and heightened water temperatures, and the added problem of human caused threats only makes things worse. When as many people as possible are educated about these threats, it can help get the information to people, non-profits and wealthy businesses that can and are willing to make a difference. Also, knowing about these practices can lead you to research the various retail outlets and travel agencies you use more carefully, so you can avoid being part of the problem by supporting the demand for practices that harm coral reefs.

Countries in southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East, as well as some in the western world, are responsible for the development of tourist attractions and the use of damaging practices that can harm coral reefs severely. If you travel to some poorly managed coastal areas on vacation, you may find that the organizers rarely clean the beach or organize coral reef cleanup activities. Moreover, in the interest of profit, they may invite or allow divers to engage in coral reef diving without proper information or precautions. As a result, and because of the presence of millions of tourists on a yearly basis, direct physical interaction often becomes one of the most problematic human caused threats to coral reefs.

Estimates show that at least 2 million people worldwide are currently in possession of rare marine creatures. The harvesting of marine life for the purpose of selling it as part of the global aquarium trade is a major human threat that continues to affect coral populations. The problems involved range from overharvesting to the use of cyanide for the purpose of harvesting rare or even endangered species and selling them on the black market. Insensitive shipping and bad husbandry practices also lead to the loss of many corals and marine species kept in captivity for this purpose. These issues show that the global aquarium trade is one of the growing human caused threats to coral reefs.

Local Threats To Coral Reefs

There are many potential concerns that we have to address regarding local threats to coral reefs. Whether artificial or natural, these threats have the power of gradually eliminating coral reef formations and damaging the integrity of ocean life to a severe extent in the areas where they operate. Whether considering the strong typhoons that affect Southeast Asia or the commercial overfishing practices in Chin, there are many important threats to speak of.

When enumerating the main local threats to coral reefs that appear as a result of humanity’s tampering with the environment, unsustainable tourism practices and destructive fishing are among the most significant we have to mention. Many companies still adhere to these practices in the hopes that they can make quick money and avoid being made accountable for their actions. However, with the increased awareness to the importance of coral reef conservation, governments from around the world are passing bills and enacting laws that make destructive local practices illegal. As a result, there is still hope that the damage caused may still be reduced and gradually reversed, provided that local practices such as damaging infrastructure, overfishing and the aquarium trade in Southeastern Asia can be eliminated over time.

Although global warming has – as the name suggests – a global effect on coral reef growth and survival, localized natural events also play a role in destroying these fragile ecosystems. As a result of global warming and climate change, weather conditions are much less predictable than in the past. This has led to powerful storms like the recent hurricanes hitting the southeastern coasts of the United States, which have also damaged significant numbers of coral reef formations. These local threats to coral reefs are a great concern for the future, since storms, earthquakes and cyclones are gradually becoming stronger in specific geographic areas, as a result of the increased warming of the ocean.

Even though we can’t do much in preventing a huge storm from wreaking havoc on coasts and coral reefs, humanity can do a lot to prevent local business practices and slow the pollution that contributes to the acceleration of global warming and climate change factors. Talk to your local government officials, and find out about local reef cleanup and conservation initiatives organized by institutions that have jurisdiction over your geographic region. Also, if you live in a coastal area, it is a good practice to raise awareness in your local community about destructive fishing practices and seek to expose those responsible. Local threats to coral reefs can be diminished to a significant extent by simply adopting these basic practices.

Natural Threats To The Coral Reef

Although natural threats to coral reefs have existed since times immemorial, the problem of nature actually damaging one of its most essential and vital elements upholding the biodiversity and thriving conditions of ocean life has never been as strong today as it was in the last few hundred years. Coral bleaching, bad weather, global warming and the damage caused by invading marine species that don’t belong in the coral reef ecosystem are just some of the major issues that have to be addressed.

Coral reefs have disappeared several times throughout the past 500 million years since their evolution began, but never have natural threats to coral reefs been so prevalent in recent history as they are today. Scientists believe that the culprit is climate change. Although not fully understood, it is believe that the accelerated global warming and the increased ocean temperatures and sea level changes measured today are a direct result of humanity’s pollution and destructive practices throughout the 20th century. Anything from atmospheric pollution to oil spills and the development of coastal locations for tourism have contributed to the pollution that has affected coral reefs both directly and indirectly through global warming. With water temperatures on the rise, it is expected that all the world’s coral reefs might disappear entirely in the next 100 years, potentially leading to the extinction of countless marine animals.

Global warming has been linked to more frequent earthquakes, stronger hurricanes and more intense El Niño events. Also, even though coral bleaching has not been observed directly before 1979, scientific evidence dating back to the early 1980s suggest that mass bleaching events have occurred in 1982, 1987, 1992 and at an increasing frequency ever since. These natural threats to coral reefs have negatively affected coral reef formations in Australia and the Caribbean, as well as parts of the Indian and Pacific oceans and several areas off the coasts of Brazil, Madagascar and the Arabian Peninsula. Some of these bleaching locations were also made more vulnerable by the increasingly erratic weather patterns from around the world.

Species alien to coral reefs have been found to cause significant damage as a result of their unplanned migrations from habitats that were destroyed by industrialization, global warming and other possible causes. When introduced to the coral reef environment, many of these species adversely affect either the coral reefs and polyps themselves or the many species of marine animals they house and protect. Disease and reduced ecosystem resilience, a loss of resources and biodiversity and a severe alteration of ecosystem dynamics are just a few of the natural threats to coral reefs that have been associated with this problem.

Red Sea Coral Reef Threats

Despite the fact that the Red Sea seemed an untouchable paradise for a long time, recent developments have led to Red Sea coral reef threats becoming some of the most pressing and difficult concerns of all coral reef-related threats. The Red Sea is home to some of the rarest and most beautiful coral reefs and endangered marine species on the planet, some of which cannot be found anywhere else. Due to a combination of threats and stressors, the Red Sea is now in trouble, and it’s up to the government of Egypt to coordinate the major efforts that could help save it, or at least postpone its destruction.

This once beautiful and pristine paradise has come under threat as a result of massive oil spillage throughout the past few years and decades. While affected by this and other Red Sea coral reef threats, the sea still features beautiful areas that remain as small remnants of the glorious beauty and clear waters that it was once known for. Unlike in most parts of the world, it seems that land-based activities are those that make up the most problematic stressors associated to this area. The result is that some areas have even become uninhabitable as a result of constant oil spillage, while most are rapidly becoming challenging environments not only for coral reefs, but for the diverse marine life that used to populate the entire Red Sea.

The evolving tourism industry has done much more harm than good when it comes to bringing the once pristine environment of the Red Sea into public view. Despite bringing in millions of tourists every year, local hotels are also pumping significant amounts of chemicals and waste products into the sea, and alongside local oil rigs, they are considered to be among the main Red Sea coral reef threats in existence. The equipment used for the furthering of the oil industry in the region is even worse, since very little effort has been made to keep it up-to-date, most companies merely focusing on profit at all costs. Because of the constant use of these oil rigs in the north of the Red Sea, dolphin populations have migrated to the south, and the already contaminated beaches and reef areas continue to suffer as a result.

Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) and Hepca are two of the leading organizations that are attempting to clean up the Red Sea. Despite all efforts, their results have been limited by a lack of environmental consciousness in the area. Education and direct involvement by people genuinely interested in preserving the natural heritage of the region are the best measures to eliminate Red Sea coral reef threats.

Threats To Coral Reefs In The Caribbean

Even though global warming affects all the reefs of the world, the main threats to coral reefs in the Caribbean are somewhat more pressing than the effects of warming ocean water and changing sea levels. The decline of what has been considered one of the highest resource of coral reefs in the world has happened rapidly throughout the past 30-40 years, and it shows that the major culprit was overfishing. The main problem is that the rapid drop in Caribbean coral reef populations have led to the disappearance of certain species of fish that are extremely important for the ongoing survival of the reef ecosystem. The result is that the main threats to coral reefs in the Caribbean might lead to the near complete depletion of these reef systems within the next 20 years.

A recent comprehensive study that followed the decline of coral reefs in the Caribbean between the period of 1970 to 2012 has involved an analysis by 90 experts and the use of more than 35,000 surveys from 100 different Caribbean locations. The revelation that the study has led to showed that the coral reefs in the area have died off rapidly, and between 50% and 80% of all Caribbean reefs were lost during that time period alone. The main culprit was overfishing; other major threats identified in the study also including the rapid acidification of the sea water and the growing concern of coral bleaching.

Experts consider that the major threats to coral reefs in the Caribbean are overfishing, pollution, disease and bleaching – the latter of which are mainly caused by the growing fragility of coral reefs due to an increase in acidity and water temperature. Overfishing in the Caribbean is not something new, and factors such as globalization and increasing industrialization in Central American countries and the Southern USA during the late 20th century can also account for the greater pollution in the area. At the same time, the disappearance of grazers such as parrotfish and sea urchins was a crucial factor due to their ability to keep algae under control and contribute to the overall balance of the entire ecosystem.

To overcome the threats of Caribbean reef decline, pollution and overfishing have to be kept under control. Without restoring parrotfish and other grazer populations, experts point out that most of the Caribbean reef populations might not even last 20 years, and they will also take many endangered and declining marine species with them. The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and the IUCN have already proposed swift action, such as the introduction of more protected areas and the limiting of fishing, to help eliminate the main threats to coral reefs in the Caribbean.

Whale in Ocean