More than 90% of the world’s coral reefs will die by 2050.

Coral reefs are akin to an alien world. Home to such immense beauty and diversity it staggers the mind. I have bared witness to this incredible ecosystem. Even though I can tell a pufferfish from a parrotfish, there is almost always some strange creature that makes me say “what the fuck is that thing?!?”

Lionfish. From SkitterPhoto

Without actions taken to minimize local stressors, the percent of threatened coral reefs worldwide will rise to 90% by 2030 and close to 100% by 2050.

We have known about coral reefs dying and global warming for over 50 years and yet we have done so very little. Pollution and litter are harmful, but warming oceans is the biggest issue.

This is a grand theological story.

It was 5 million years ago when, Aridipithecus, an early “proto-human”, inhabited the earth. Over 530 million years before Ardi, the animal, (yeah, I said animal) coral inhabited the earth. You have likely bared witness to the death of most of these primordial organsims. (over 50% of coral reefs have died off in the last 30 years.) In less than half of a generation we have brought coral to its demise; yet, it is in the same generation we have a chance to salvage it.

Coral Bleaching on LIZARD ISLAND, GBR, MAY 2016. CREDIT: THE OCEAN AGENCY / XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY

Why is this a problem?

More than 90% of wildfires are caused by humans and the forest can nearly fully recover within a matter of decades. However, the massive corals like the one seen above grow at a rate between 5 and 25 millimeters (0.2–1 inch) per year to their length.

Corals manifest biodiversity. They are the rainforests of the sea. Covering less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs are home to one-quarter of all ocean species. They also provide us with medicines, clear waters and sushi.

What can we do?

  1. Dispose of trash, recycle and stop single use plastics. (Checkout my blog post Your Grocery Bag.)
  2. Don’t use Chemical Sunscreen (Chemical sunscreens cause coral bleaching)
  3. Donate
  4. Reduce your carbon footprint
  5. Spread the word and volunteer

References:

“Climate Science Glossary.” Skeptical Science, skepticalscience.com/coral-bleaching.htm.

“How Coral Reefs Grow.” Coral Reef Alliance, coral.org/coral-reefs-101/coral-reef-ecology/how-coral-reefs-grow/.

“Reefs Are At Risk.” Reef Resilience, reefresilience.org/reefs-are-at-risk/.

“The 35 Esiest Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.” State of the Planet, 18 Dec. 2018, blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/12/27/35-ways-reduce-carbon-footprint/.

Sanctuary, Florida Keys National Marine. “The Variety of Species Living on a Coral Reef Is Greater than in Any Other Shallow-Water Marine Ecosystem, Making Reefs One of the Most Diverse Ecosystems on the Planet.” Why Are Coral Reefs Called the Rainforests of the Sea?, 4 Apr. 2011, floridakeys.noaa.gov/corals/biodiversity.html.

 

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