What if all coral reefs in the world were destroyed? Lila Gazette takes a deep dive into the world of coral.
By Eden Perkins – 8th grade
It’s high time to raise the alarm about coral reefs. In many places in the world, coral is in danger and could threaten the balances of many ecosystems. But why are the coral reefs being destroyed in the first place? The main reasons revolve around accidental destruction. Humans don’t want to destroy coral reefs, but with activities such as blast fishing (a fishing technique that uses dynamite), cyanide fishing, pollution, and rising temperatures, humans are very harmful to these magical underwater forests. There are also purposeful destruction of coral reefs, such as mining coral for building materials or collecting it for museums or aquariums.
One of the biggest problems for coral reefs is pollution. Whether it be oil spills or land runoffs, pollution is massacring coral. Coral is very sensitive, so if large amounts of oil is spilled into the ocean, coral reefs might be wiped out in a matter of days.
Another thing to talk about: coral bleaching. When coral bleaches, it does not die. Coral bleaching happens when the water is too warm. In some cases, however, coral bleaching can be caused by water being too cold. The coral in question expels the algae living on it, turning the coral completely white. Although coral bleaching is not fatal, it puts the coral under more stress and it is subject to death. Bleached coral is more vulnerable than healthy or even weak coral. This event might result in eerie, bleak coral reefs once filled with color. A bleached coral reef looks dystopian and dead.
How does the destruction of coral reefs affect humans? Humans are deeply affected by coral reefs, and consequently, their destruction. There are many little-known facts about coral reefs, like the fact that coral reefs protect coastlines from erosion. More than 200 million people rely on coral reefs to protect their coasts from storms and waves.
Another strange effect is that medical breakthroughs would be a lot less frequent. Coral reefs have a major impact on medicine, as they house many different species of aquatic animals that help scientists with research in the medical field. Coral itself houses many types of algae within themselves, which helps in research. Coral itself has amazing chemical defenses, which scientists are trying to understand.
And then there are some of the more obvious reasons, like how diving would be more boring. Coral (and consequently, the animals within it, as well as seagrass) is very interesting, and the reason a lot of people love to go diving.
Also, the sea would be a lot slimier. Algae grows everywhere. That means it needs something to control the spread. Enter: the parrotfish. This beautiful fish’s favorite snack is algae. And parrotfish live in coral reefs. So, if coral reefs were gone, parrotfish would go extinct (probably), which means that the ocean would be covered in coral.
Next are sea urchins. These spiky animals reproduce very quickly. They also come with population control. The main predators of sea urchins are crabs and lobsters. These clawed crustaceans live in coral reefs. So, if coral reefs were gone, sea urchins would spread everywhere.
Coral reefs also produce oxygen, so, with no coral reefs, less oxygen would be created.
In essence, if coral reefs were destroyed, the ocean would turn into a slimy wasteland infested with sea urchins, coastlines would constantly erode, humans would slow down in the medical field, diving would be useless, and the world would have less oxygen.
How to save them? Stopping pollution would help. Humans could also stop relying on fishing so much, especially blast and cyanide fishing. The less people fish, the better. Global warming also has a horrible effect on the aquatic ecosystem in general. Still, there is hope. Among other non-profit organizations, the Coral Reef Alliance, in California, is working to help save these beautiful underwater forests. You can help by donating here: The Coral Reef Alliance