Have you ever done scuba diving?
Have you seen coral reefs while scuba diving?
To see this side of ocean life, people participate in various underwater sports.
The coral reefs are not only mesmerizing but its creation is itself mind-boggling.
So many marine lives are dependent on coral reefs as their hiding spots and for food.
But with time and the increase in water pollution, the coral reefs are dying and affecting the whole marine life.
In this article, I will tell you six ways to protect Florida’s coral reefs.
Let’s find out.
What Are Coral Reefs?
Coral reefs are underwater structures made up of skeletons of colonial marine invertebrates called coral, which were once living in those areas. The living corals live together as network of creatures and are called coral polyps. Once a living coral dies, the other coral polyps live on it and secrete calcium carbonate and limestone on the surface below. There are also other coral reefs that don’t feed on the dead ones and they are soft corals. They are flexible organisms that look like plants and trees and include species such as sea fans and sea whips.
What are Florida’s Coral Reefs?
Florida’s coral reef stretches almost 358 miles from the Dry Tortugas near Key West, north along the Atlantic coast to Martin County. The five counties bordering the reefs have population over 6 million people.
It is the only coral reef system in the United States and it has over forty species of reef-building corals that provide shelter, food, and breeding sites for millions of plants and animals. Some of the inhabitants of Florida’s coral reef are colorful parrotfish, angelfish, wrasses, barracuda, nurse sharks, stingrays, delicate corals, turtles and other invertebrates.
Importance of Coral Reefs
- Coral reefs provide a complete habitat for species by providing food and shelter.
- The living species of coral reefs are valuable to commercial and recreational fisheries.
- The coral reefs provide a source of food for people living by the coast.
- Coral reefs are also a new frontier for biomedical research.
- Some coral reefs contain certain chemicals that are used to create medicines for combating diseases such as arthritis, cancer, viral infections, and heart disease.
- Because of its beautiful structure, coral reefs attract tourists who act as a bolster to the economy. Florida’s Coral Reef earns $1.1 billion annually in terms of tourism.
- One of the most important part played by coral reefs are that they protect the coastlines from storms and flooding.
- The reefs are economically vital to South Florida as it results in income generation as well as employment opportunities for around 71,000 people.
What Damages Coral Reefs?
Though coral reefs are made up of hard exoskeletons, they are still very sensitive to change in water temperature, pH, as well as disease. When the temperature of water rises by 2°C, it can lead to coral bleaching. Due to color bleaching, the symbiotic alga that gives coral reefs their brilliant colors washes out. And the coral begins to turn white. The continuous color bleaching leads to dying corals and prevent new ones to form. The frequent episodes of increase in temperature are due to global warming.
Just like temperature change, ocean’s pH levels also affect coral reefs. The global warming causes ocean water temperatures to rise, and also lowering their average ph. The air pollution leads to more carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. And due to cutting of trees the carbon dioxide is not absorbed by trees and it is then absorbed by the ocean. Carbon dioxide reacts with water to form carbonic acid, which reduces the concentration of carbonate, and also lowers the pH of the surrounding water. And coral reefs needs carbonate ions to make their skeletons and for their growth also. Ocean acidification hinders the growth and formation of coral reefs.
Another issue that affects coral reefs is a condition known as stony coral tissue loss disease. Around 35% of the Florida’s coral reefs are damaged because of this disease. This disease turns the coral reefs white.
How Coral Reefs can be protected?
- Reduce water pollution by safely disposing the industrial wastes and harmful chemicals present in pesticides. When you go for fishing, don’t leave the fishing lines or nets in the water.
- Whatever products you use in your home, especially in lawn, they will eventually flow into the water system. So it is better to use green products for fertilizers and pesticides that will not harm coral reefs.
- Reduce air pollution by planting more trees so that the carbon dioxide emitted from vehicles etc. is absorbed by trees rather than ocean.
- You should raise awareness on the importance of the coral reefs and how to protect them.
- When you visit a coral reef while scuba diving, don’t touch the reef or anchor your boat on the reef. If you touch it, you may damage it and anchoring the boat will simple kill the coral reef. So, be a responsible citizen and admire the beautiful reefs from some distance.
- To protect coral reefs from stony coral tissue loss disease, amoxicillin is used. Normally with this disease, reefs have a survival rate between 0% and 33%. But with the help of this antibiotic treatment, the survival rate increases to 99%.
You as an individual can always play a part in protecting coral reefs through reducing the air and water pollution. Further you can visit Scott Cooper Miami to learn more about coral reefs and how you can protect them. Scott Cooper Miami is an online lifestyle blog covering a range of topics related to current Miami issues, Miami nightlife events and business trends.