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5 Ways to Protect Coral Reefs

Posted January 9, 2017 in Coastal Engineering, Environmental Engineering

In 2017, the movement towards awareness and change have been brought to the forefront. The world is slowing coming to terms with the fact that everything we do on a day-to-day basis can cause catastrophic harm to the environment, extending all the way to the coral reefs. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), we have already lost 27% of the world’s reefs, with the remaining threatened by human activity. In just a short span of years, corals reefs have displayed a large transformational change, as many are now bleached white in contrast to its original vibrant color.

Climate change, our global threat, has caused coral reefs to lose its food and oxygen source from algae, which acidifies in warmer waters. Pollution, another global threat, causes disease and disrupts ecological feeding behaviors coming from many sources of chemicals, fertilizers, sediments, and oils that wash into the ocean. Corals often are crushed and killed through tourists standing on reefs or boaters carelessly anchoring when they dock. Overfishing removes important fish from the ecosystem and destroys the delicate balance that allows coral reefs to thrive.

Being land people, coral reefs are not something we think about in our day-to-day life. But by proactively sharing knowledge about the global effects of our actions, we can collectively make the necessary living adjustments to improve our planet’s health.

  1. Go Green. Buy energy efficient products, conserve energy, reuse materials, and eat sustainably. Overconsumption negatively impacts our environment and is a big factor in climate change. By working towards sustainable energy, not only will you protect the coral reefs, but also many other species that cannot survive the warming of our earth.
     
  2. Travel Smart. According to the State of Washington Department of Ecology, more than half of our CO2 comes from vehicles. Switch to a fuel efficient car or participate in other effective travel safe changes, such as walking, bicycling, and carpooling.
     
  3. Reduce Pollution. Prevent chemicals and trash from flowing into our water systems.  Be careful with the chemicals you use to fertilize your grass, wash your car, and even bathe. Use less water in general to decrease the level of wastewater. Wear sunscreen that doesn’t contain chemicals that are harmful to coral reefs.
     
  4. Volunteer to clean up our beaches. There are always tons of refuse due to high volumes of tourism on our sandy shores. Help pick up after yourself, as well as others, who have left debris behind.
     
  5. When you visit the ocean, respect the ocean. Take heed of coral reefs whenever you dive, fish, or anchor your boats. Understand the sensitivity of the ecosystem and refrain from overfishing or touching the reefs at all costs.

For both marine life and humans on shore, coral reefs provide food, shelter, and protection. Coral reefs occupy less than one quarter of 1% of the marine environment, but hold more than 25% of all known marine species according to the WWF. They provide shelter and protection along the coastlines, acting as barriers to the swell to prevent land erosion. By protecting the reefs, we are not only protecting our marine population on a large scale, but also our food, economy, and land.