WHY DOES CORAL REEF HEALTH MATTER TO YOU?
"Healthy coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse and economically valuable ecosystems on Earth, providing valuable and vital ecosystem services.
Coral ecosystems are a source of food for millions; protect coastlines from storms and erosion; provide habitat, spawning and nursery grounds for economically important fish species; provide jobs and income to local economies from fishing, recreation, and tourism; are a source of new medicines, and are hotspots of marine biodiversity."
-- US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
According to the World Resources Institute, coral reefs generate nearly $30 billion annually through coastal protection, fisheries, and tourism. Coral reefs buffer coastlines against storm surges and shoreline erosion by reducing wave energy an average 97%. They sustain a quarter of all marine life and tropical fisheries, which provide food security for hundreds of millions of people. Over 90 national economies integrate reef-based activities, creating more than 15% of GDP in nearly two dozen countries. Moreover, coral reef biodiversity provides a treasure trove of genetic resources: up to 300-400 times greater potential than terrestrial ecosystems for compounds that can be used for cancer medications, painkillers, bone grafts, and other medical applications.
Reefs and the people they support are at risk
Unfortunately, coral reefs are at great risk. More than 30% of the world's coral reefs died over the past several decades, and over 75% of surviving reefs are projected to die by 2050. In regions like the Caribbean, over 80% have already died. Stressors include a combination of shifting ocean temperatures, acidification, overfishing, pollution, and poorly managed coastal development.
Dying corals threaten both ecosystems and economies. If a region's reefs are not revived, coastal residents and properties are more exposed to rising seas and stronger storms, fisheries reliant upon reefs as nurseries face collapse, dive and snorkel tourists will spend their money elsewhere, and the prospect of discovering potentially life-saving drugs is lost. This map shows how reefs at risk will increase by 2050:
Coral Reef restoration: A solution
Tourist industries that depend on marine life; governments that need to protect their economies and communities; corporations that want to invest in valuable natural resources; individuals who wish to do all they can to preserve the environment: for all of these, Coral Vita offers solutions to revive the health of reefs.
Banner photo credit: Dive Wananavu Fiji