A few months ago I stumbled upon a devastating article about a massive coral bleaching event at the Great Barrier Reef and was inspired to dedicate some of my work to awareness of this conservation cause. According to an article published in March of this year, about 22% of the reef was killed by this event which scientists have determined was caused by climate change. Apparently, often times when coral sits in still water that is too warm for too long, the algae which lives inside them is spit out leaving behind a white skeleton. The algae then dies, the coral dies without the algae to feed upon, and the whole ecosystem which depends of the reef collapses and dies. Surprisingly this is not a new phenomena, massive global coral bleaching events have been observed by scientists since the 1980’s. However, according to an article by The Guardian “Since 1982, just after mass bleachings were seen for the first time, the data shows that the average proportion of the Great Barrier Reef exposed to temperatures where bleaching or death is likely has increased from about 11% a year to about 27% a year.” However, because tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry for Australia – particularly tourism at the Great Barrier Reef – some are suspicious that awareness of these events has been suppressed out of fear of damage to that industry. Others claim that scientists are exaggerating the data for their own political purposes. But any way you spin it, it’s still true that globally coral reefs support approximately 25% of all marine species and they appear to be under a serious threat due to environmental factors. So what can you do to help?? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the three major contributors which impact delicate reef systems are: unsustainable fishing, climate change, and land based sources of pollution. So here are a few suggestions I’ve found for how you might make a positive impact!
Don’t give coral as gifts: Corals are already a gift, don’t give them as presents.
Conserve water: The less water you use, the less runoff and wastewater that will eventually find its way back into the ocean.
Volunteer in local beach or reef cleanups: If you don’t live near the coast, get involved in protecting your watershed.
Plant a tree and support forest conservation: Trees store carbon and reduce agricultural run-off, which may ultimately end up in the ocean.
Become an informed consumer: Learn how your daily choices like water use, recycling, seafood, vacation spots, fertilizer use, and driving times can positively (or negatively) impact the health of coral reefs.
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