Having survived tens of thousands of years of natural change, humankind has managed to wreak havoc on coral reefs – the beautiful and life-sustaining underwater organisms that over 25 percent of all marine life calls home.
Shockingly, one quarter of coral reefs worldwide are already considered damaged beyond repair and two-thirds of those that remain salvageable are under threat. Major threats include destructive fishing practices (see below); careless tourism, such as overdevelopment, thoughtless diving, snorkelling and boating, and people touching reefs and collecting coral; pollution from urban and industrial waste, sewage, agrochemicals and oil, which poison the reefs and up the level of nitrogen in the seawater, which effectively suffocates reefs; and climate change – corals simply cannot survive if the temperature of the sea is too high and react by ‘bleaching’, a literal and visually dramatic stress response that eventually leads to death.
Oceanic acidification, disease, sedimentation due to deforestation, coral mining and coastal development are other major concerns that affect the health of coral reefs. There is room for optimism, however, with around 40 percent of the world’s reefs regarded as being relatively healthy and not facing immediate danger. Importantly, there is still time to take action and join the effort to preserve some of the richest natural habitats our planet has to offer.
What can you do?
Make sure any marine conservation vacation you join has strict guidelines on responsible diving and snorkelling
and the safe exploration of coral reefs. As climate change is one of the biggest threats to coral reefs around the world, take part in WWF's global Earth Hour
, by going 'lights out' for 60 minutes on one day in March each year.