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.