It’s true that the current status of the Earth’s coral reefs is nothing to brag about, but with a little help from our world’s governments and citizens, our reef systems stand a fighting chance. In her TED talk, scientist Kristen Marhaver shared her findings after diving in the Caribbean while studying corals for her PhD. Dr. Marhaver discussed that while the threats to the coral reefs are still very real (many of the corals close to the shoreline still showed signs of abuse), the reefs that were best protected showed little to no signs of bleaching or regression.
Corals are a big part of the planet’s infrastructure. They help protect our shorelines and provide food to millions of people around the world. Efforts to protect reef systems have made recent headlines, including the Galveston Sanctuary Expansion and protections in Thailand. These plans include banning the anchoring of boats on coral reefs, and prohibiting the feeding of marine animals and commercial fishing on reefs. The new laws will allow corals to slowly regenerate and expand with little human interference.
Certain species of corals have also shown resilience to warming seas. Special coral nurseries have been working to plant these heartier corals into already established reef systems. Once rooted, the new corals will help keep vital marine organisms present in order to maintain a healthy balance in the reef.
Reef restoration structures are also helping to grow new corals and are inexpensive and benefit local communities by using locally sourced materials and labour. These structures can be placed in areas that are known to have less volatile environments so that the reefs have the ability to thrive. As the reefs grow larger, they allow more fish to dwell within them, which in turn provides vital food for locals who depend on them as their main source of protein.
Here are some ways that you can help coral reefs even without making a trip to the sea:
- Use glass jars and reusable containers for water and leftovers
- Bring your own bags to the grocery store
- Eat vegan! One or more vegan meals a day can help reduce the amount of natural gas that is emitted into the atmosphere via ruminant gas expulsion, and reduce the slash and burn of forests for livestock habitation. As methane and CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere, they trap the sun’s heat. The gases then act as a magnifying glass focusing back toward Earth, warming the seas and adversely affecting the coral reefs.
If we can all commit to making a few changes, and our governments can establish real protected boundaries, our corals still have a chance to rebound and flourish for future generations to enjoy.
Why do you think it is important to save the reef systems? What can you personally do to make that happen?
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