Coral reefs are more than just a pretty place for divers to pass their time. They are absolutely essential to the proper functioning of international marine ecosystems, and to the communities who rely on fishing and other marine activities for their living. Development, agricultural runoff, overfishing, and increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are just a few of the factors that have threatened coral reefs to such an extent that US government and non-government organizations have issued a very stern warning: if we don’t fix our behavior, we could lose all of our reefs as early as 2050.
Up 15% since 1998, the report “Reefs at Risk” found that 75% of the world’s coral reefs are currently threatened.
Jane Lubchenco with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that land, coastal and water pressures are converging to create a perfect storm of threats, which have gone from worrisome to dire.
In addition to attracting tourism, coral reefs provide an essential haven to fish and otherwise preserve marine biodiversity. More than 500 million people worldwide depend on them for their food and livelihood.
By 2030, 90% of the world’s reefs could be completely destroyed. Reefs provide $30 billion each year in benefits, benefits that we will lose entirely by 2050 if we don’t take measures to combat the factors contributing to their decline.
Both carbon dioxide emissions that alter the chemical composition of oceans and warmer temperatures are detrimental to coral growth. Other pressures include over-fishing, destructive fishing methods, agricultural run-off, unsustainable development, ships that drag anchors and chains across the reefs, and tourism.
More on coral reefs throughout the Middle East:
image via Margaret Wertheim