Here's a little coral reef conservation snapshot from our partners 4ocean. During Earth Month 2021, 4ocean is donating $1 to SeaTrees every 4ocean Earth Day Bracelet sold this month. The investment will be used to protect and restore coral reefs and other blue-carbon ecosystems like mangrove forests.
Climate change is causing our reefs to disappear, but there is hope!
Coral reefs are found in 109 countries around the world. In the last few decades, coral colonies in 93 of them have experienced significant degradation. In fact, about a quarter of the world’s coral reefs are already considered to be damaged beyond repair. The loss of our coral reefs is truly a global problem because they:
- Cover just 1% of the ocean floor while supporting an estimated 25% of all marine life; that accounts for more than 4,000 species of fish, which means they’re responsible for the highest marine biodiversity in the ocean
- Drive tourism in over 100 countries around the world, providing millions of jobs and billions of dollars in income
- Act as natural breakwaters that help protect shoreline communities, coastal cities, and beaches from powerful waves produced by storms
- Feed entire communities of people across the globe, especially those living on islands
- Support human life by providing sources of medicine that are being used to treat cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and other diseases
Corals (which are actually animals) have a symbiotic relationship with the microscopic marine algae (plants called zooxanthellae) living inside their tissue. The coral provides shelter for the algae and the algae provide oxygen, glucose, and amino acids that the coral needs to survive. The algae also give corals their gorgeous array of colors.
When corals become stressed, they expel the zooxanthellae which causes the coral to ghostly white in a process scientists call coral bleaching. A bleaching event doesn’t necessarily kill coral, though it can if the algae loss is prolonged and the stress isn’t alleviated. Coral that survives a bleaching event becomes weaker, struggles to grow and reproduce, and becomes more vulnerable to disease.
Mass coral bleaching events are occurring more often and the increased frequency is having a devastating and prolonged effect on the world’s coral reefs. The largest reef system in the world — the Great Barrier Reef — recently experienced a mass bleaching event that caused significant coral mortality in as much as 22% of the reef. Mass coral death has a ripple effect that impacts thousands of other marine species that rely on the coral community to survive — including humans.