Coral reefs, some of the Earth’s most remarkable natural structures, are more than just beautiful to admire. Besides fostering a diverse marine environment, coral reefs are also vital to the health of the oceans. In total, coral reefs cover about 0.1 percent of the ocean’s but they nurture 25 percent of the world’s marine species. Coral reefs are the ocean’s lifelines and when they disappear, it can create an ecologically devastating domino effect.
Sadly, the world’s corals are rapidly disappearing due to warming ocean temperatures, human industry, overfishing, and ocean acidification. For example, over the past thirty years, the Great Barrier Reef has lost approximately 50 percent of its coral. The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which was placed on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in Danger in 2009, is facing a similarly dismal future.
The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System is home to an amazing 1,400 different species, including 500 types of fish and 100 corals. This reef hosts the world’s largest population of threatened Indian manatees, as well as endangered sharks and marine turtles; however, in recent years, the reef’s ecosystems have been damaged by coastal construction, and oil concessions continue to pose a threat.
According to the NOAA, “Once oil comes into contact with corals, it can kill them or impede their reproduction, growth, behavior, and development. The entire reef ecosystem can suffer from an oil spill, affecting the many species of fish, crabs, and other marine invertebrates that live in and around coral reefs.”
With the Australian Carribean Coral Reef Collaboration estimating that reefs in Belize will experience thermal stress severe enough to cause bleaching every year after 2040 – and projections for ocean acidification suggest that declines in coral calcification by 2040 may exceed 10 percent, the threat of oil drilling has the potential to push this reef over the edge.
And the loss of this massive biodiversity hot spot wouldn’t just be devastating to marine animals. “Nearly 200,000 Belizeans are estimated to rely on the reef for survival,” explains WWF. “And 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product comes from the reef — including about $15 million from the commercial fishing industry and about $200 million from tourism activities. This natural barrier also saves Belize up to $350 million per year in avoided damage from storms and other natural disasters.”
Healthy ocean ecosystems benefit humans just as much, if not more, than they do marine animals, so it is up to us to stand up for this precious reef. Together we can protect the Belize barrier reef World Heritage site from harmful industrial activities by signing this petition to the Belize prime minister to show that we care.
For other ways you can help protect the world’s coral reefs, check out these articles:
- 6 Ways You Can Help Save Our Oceans
- Take Action to Stop Ocean Acidification
- Read about many more ways you can make a difference by clicking here.
Image Source: arhnue/Pixabay