What can we do to conserve coral reefs? Coral reefs are critically important ecosystems, providing a wide range of benefits to both humans and marine life. They support extraordinary biodiversity and marine species, including fish, sea mammals, and invertebrates.
While they only cover less than one percent of the ocean, coral reefs support an estimated 25% of sea life. They provide nursery, spawning, refuge, and feeding areas for various sea organisms. These include mollusks, crustaceans, and sea urchins.
Also, they play an essential role in water quality and coastal stability. For example, they help to filter sediments and nutrients from the water. Additionally, they act as natural breakwaters. As such, they minimize wave impacts from storms such as hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons.
That’s not all; coral reefs form stunning ecosystems that appeal to the eyes. This makes them a powerful tourism attraction feature. In general, coral reefs provide habitat, food, income, protection, and medicine.
However, various factors like water pollution threaten these beautiful sea species. And this calls for their protection. How, then, can we help protect the world’s coral reefs and ensure that they continue to play an important role in the ocean ecosystem?
How to Conserve Coral Reefs
If you want to learn how to conserve coral reefs, here are superb options you can consider.
1. Learn About the Threats Coral Reefs are Facing
One of the most important things you can do is to educate yourself about the threats surrounding coral reefs. You can make informed decisions that help save coral reefs when you are aware of these threats.
Some of the main threats to coral reef survival include the following:
- Environmental pollution
- Coastal development
- Climate change
Pollution can come from various sources, such as agricultural runoff, industrial waste, and sewage effluent. On the other hand, coastal development causes water runoff and sedimentation, which damage coral reefs. Also, it can disrupt coral reef habitats and lead to the introduction of non-native species.
Overfishing can impact the populations of fish species that eat coral reef algae. This leads to the depletion of coral reef ecosystems.
Climate change causes increased ocean temperature and oceanic acidity levels. Warmer waters increase the likelihood of coral bleaching events. And more acidic ocean waters harm coral reefs and impede their growth.
If we learn how to keep coral reefs healthy and reduce these threats, we can take proactive steps to protect them. In return, this helps guarantee their continued survival.
See Related: What is Overfishing? Examples & Solutions to Prevent
2. Become a Reef-Safe Traveler
If you become a reef-safe traveler, you help protect coral reefs. Also, you help protect the beaches and ocean habitats from harm and contribute to the conservation efforts in the coastal areas.
But how can you become a reef-safe traveler? There are many ways to do so. First, choose accommodations with minimal environmental impacts. Choose the ones with low-flow faucets and toilets to conserve water when taking a shower or washing dishes.
You can also reduce your environmental impact using energy-saving or Energy Star-Certified appliances. Also, switching off lights and electronic devices while not in use or when leaving the room can help.
When walking along the beach, practice responsible tourism. For example, ensure that you don’t touch or step on any coral you see on the beach.
You can also be reef safe by using reusable water bottles and bags. Alternatively, buy locally-made eco-friendly products. Always avoid single-use plastics wherever possible.
Keep off from souvenirs or aquariums made of living coral. And if you must purchase a souvenir, choose one made of wood or another non-coral material.
Lastly, if you have a pet, take steps to prevent it from harming the coral and surrounding environment. When you do so, you will help to conserve these valuable ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.
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3. Practice Safe Snorkeling and Diving
One of the best ways to preserve and protect coral reefs is to practice safe snorkeling and diving. And since snorkeling is a fun activity for many people, doing it responsibly can go a long way.
The first step here in protecting these ecosystems is to avoid touching the reefs or anchoring your boat to them. Anchoring can damage or even kill corals. As for touching, it may damage delicate coral animals and reef fishes.
Another way to help protect coral reefs is to choose a dive site that is not too close to them. Also, if you see damaged coral, avoid it. Instead, report it to authorities so they can take proper measures to ensure the reef’s health.
Additionally, ensure that the visitors on your dive trip do their part to protect the environment. We should all strive to keep coral reefs alive for future generations.
Lastly, avoid destructive actions that can damage the reef ecosystem or deprive it of vital resources for survival. For instance, avoid standing on them or crushing them.
4. Choose a Reef-Friendly Sunscreen
Another common concern for reef-conscious people is the impact of the chemicals sunscreen contains. While many modern sunscreens are safe for coral, some contain dangerous chemicals that can have long-term effects on marine ecosystems.
When buying sunscreen, look for mineral-based sunscreens that use a micro-sized particle or non-nano zinc oxide as their active ingredients. These are safe and effective and do not contribute to coral bleaching.
Avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone, Parabens, Triclosan, Octocrylene, Homosalate, and Octinoxate. These ingredients are toxic to coral reefs and other marine life if washed off into the ocean.
Always check the sunscreens’ labels to find the active ingredients and choose the ones that will be safe for corals. Finally, ensure the products are in reusable containers or bio-degradable plant-based materials.
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5. Dispose of Trash Properly and Recycle
Marine debris can harm coral reefs. Therefore, reduce throwing trash around as much as possible. Use materials that support the three Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle). When you reuse and recycle the trash at home and on the go, especially those made of plastic, you help conserve the environment.
Dispose of trash properly in the proper cans to avoid the probability of it getting washed away into waterways and oceans.
When on the beach, leave no traces behind. That means don’t throw plastic cans and cigarette butts in the sand. Also, don’t leave unwanted fishing lines on the beach or in the water.
Finally, you can organize beach or reef cleanups or volunteer at environmental organizations that do such cleanups. Pick up trash from the community and dispose of it properly. Volunteer for annual trash cleanup activities to help protect the oceans from marine debris.
6. Reduce Stormwater Runoff
Stormwater runoff is the fastest-growing source of pollution. This water flows after the rain hits parking lots, rooftops, and roads. Thus, this untreated water contains a wide range of contaminants.
Reducing stormwater runoff helps reduce flooding, prevent water pollution, and protect our water bodies. To achieve this, homeowners can use rain barrels and gardens to collect rainwater or install water catchments. Conserving water and planting trees can also help reduce runoff into the oceans.
Avoiding the dumping of wastewater into the ocean can help too. Ensure that it passes through treatment before it reaches the water’s natural bodies, such as tributaries, lakes, rivers, and oceans.
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7. Minimize the Use of Fertilizers
Minimizing the use of fertilizers in gardens and lawns can help protect water quality.
When you use fertilizer in gardens, the nutrients, including phosphorous and nitrogen, eventually get washed away into the waterways. Finally, they end up in the ocean, damaging sea life.
These fertilizers, chemicals, and pesticides pollute the water and harm coral reefs. Therefore, reducing fertilizer overuse will help save coral reefs.
Alternatively, consider only organic or ecological fertilizers. These are less likely to contaminate lands and water.
8. Use Environmentally-Friendly Modes of Transportation
Opting for a cleaner means of transport reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Vehicles that use gas and fossil fuels release carbon emissions into the environment. These emissions contribute to rising temperatures and ocean acidification, which impede coral growth.
Therefore, reduce the use of vehicles. Instead, walk, take a bike, or use public transport (like trains and buses) to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide.
If you plan to purchase a vehicle, go for a fuel-efficient hybrid or electric car. This helps reduce carbon footprint. Remember, human-generated greenhouse gases are the main contributor to global warming.
9. Marine Parks and Reserves
The creation of marine parks and reserves can play a role in coral reef conservation efforts. First, they can help preserve the threatened marine species or species that can no longer survive in the ocean safely.
Secondly, the marine protected areas help limit human activity, including commercial fishing, mining, and recreational activities, which may threaten coral reefs.
Paying a visit to marine parks can help raise awareness about the ocean ecosystem. A perfect example of marine parks in the US is the East End Marine Park, Virgin Islands. It helps protect the largest barrier reef system in the Caribbean Sea. The park comprises 60 square miles of coral reefs and shallow seas, among other ocean inhabitants.
See Related: Is Polyvinyl Alcohol Bad for the Environment?
10. Spread the Word About Coral Conservation
Educating the community around you about conserving the coral reefs is crucial. First, share this information with your friends and family.
Additionally, organize seminars to raise awareness about protecting water quality and conserving coral reefs. Visit local schools around you and teach about coral reef conservation.
Join local businesses and organizations dedicated to protecting coral reefs. The Planetary Coral Reef Foundation, Coral Reef Alliance, and Reef Relief are examples of organizations working hard to stop coral reef destruction.
Finally, find out what your local representatives are doing about the conservation efforts and support them where possible. If there has been no activity on the same, write to them and demand action.
What are the main threats to coral reefs?
There are numerous threats to coral reefs. But perhaps the major ones include global warming, ocean acidification, overfishing, destructive fishing practices, and disease outbreaks. Runoff water from land-based activities, sedimentation from coastal development, and bleaching also form a big part of water pollution which is also a threat to the coral reefs.
How can I help protect the coral reefs?
The first step towards protecting the coral reefs is reducing your carbon footprint. For example, switching to renewable energy sources.
Minimizing the use of fertilizers in gardens and lawns and avoiding wastewater dumping into oceans and waterways will also go a long way. Lastly, you can support organizations dedicated to protecting coral reefs and educating others about conservation efforts.
What is ocean acidification?
Ocean acidification is a process caused by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It leads to increased acidity in seawater, which can be damaging to corals and other organisms living in these waters.
As more carbon dioxide enters the oceans, it decreases pH levels. This, in return, leads to decreased calcification rates and makes it difficult for reef-building organisms to form their calcium carbonate skeletons.
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