All divers will tell you how beautiful coral reefs are. They’re like the cities under the ocean, home to hundreds of fish and wonderful creatures! Their value lies far beyond their beauty and the pleasure it brings to those who explore it. Coral reefs are fundamental for many reasons. From protecting our land to providing us with food, all the way to putting money in our pockets.
Money, money, money
Many coral reefs are the foundations for their local economies. This often has to do with those dreaded tourists! But we all love them. We love being them, and we love having them. They make the world go around!
Coral reefs provide millions of jobs to locals via tourism, fishing, and recreational activities. Tourism includes anything from diving, fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and many other businesses. Many legendary coral reef ecosystems worldwide are cultural heritage sites. Humans who live near them maintain many traditions.
The Great Barrier Reef alone generates over $1.5 million USD per year for the Australian economy. And in the Florida Keys, coral reefs generate nearer $3 billion USD per year and are valued at $8 billion USD.
It’s not only western countries that benefit though. Poorer coastal communities in less economically developed countries can profit from coral reefs – if they are managed in a sustainable way!
Coral reefs provide incalculable biological wealth, as well as economic. They provide goods and services worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Considering they cover less than one percent of the earth’s surface – that’s hard to ignore!
The Great Barrier Reef is called a barrier for a reason
Coral reefs protect the land we live on. They protect our shorelines from erosion and from storms, hurricanes and even tsunamis. Barrier reefs are named because of how they reduce waves and buffer shores. They act as a barrier between the ocean and land. They support mangroves and seagrass beds.
People who live in built-up areas particularly reap benefits from erosion prevention. Coral reefs mean reduced insurance and a lack of need for coastal defenses. That’s worth billions of dollars per year. Around the world, over half a billion people live within 100 kilometers of coral reefs. And so they have the advantage of their coastal protection and their production.
Coral reefs can’t exist in murky, polluted waters. Many corals and sponges are filter feeders so they consume matter suspended in water. So they’re epic contributors to water quality and clarity of shoreline waters.
Clean and clear waters make beaches more beautiful. And allow coral reefs to continue to thrive and be healthy. Good for fish, marine life and for tourism!
One fish, two fish, three fish, more!
Coral reefs are the foundation for complex food webs of the ocean. They’re the source of nitrogen and other nutrients. Fish find food, shelter, and protection from coral reefs. Reefs are important to spawning and as a home to juvenile fish. This is especially important for the fishing industry.
But it’s not only our fish friends! Many crustaceans, mammals and reptiles live on coral reefs too. And they depend on them for somewhere to live and protection in the ocean. And each lil’ animal has its own special role in the reef ecosystem.
Coral reefs support a diverse range of plants and animals. And so support and maintain balanced relationships between prey, predators and organisms. Balanced relationships mean our marine ecosystems remain diverse with abundant marine life. Yay!
Food glorious food
Seafood has been a staple in human diets since people have lived on coastlines. It’s a big economic force in all oceans around the world. Local fisheries all rely on reefs for habitat and spawning. Fisheries for pelagic species rely on coral reefs indirectly through the baitfish they consume.
Especially in less economically developed countries, coral reefs are important for fishing. Here, coral reefs contribute to 25 percent of total fish catch. This provides food for many millions of people!
It’s estimated that one billion people depend on coral reefs for food and income from fishing. Sustainable management of coral reefs can yield a lot of food. Around 15 tonnes of fish and seafood per square kilometer per year.
Long story short, fish and other marine life exist because coral reefs give them food and a place to live. So coral reefs = food for us. Although fish are friends, not food where we come from!
Variety is the spice of life
Coral reefs help to support a diverse range of species of fish and other marine life. A diverse range of species means a wider gene pool. This means more survival options during changing environmental conditions and climate change.
Extinction is a greater threat to those species with limited diversity. The greater the diversity, the lesser the impact of removing an individual species on the wider ecosystem.
Coral reefs are some of the most diverse valuable ecosystems on our planet. They support more species per unit area than any other marine environment. This includes 4,000 species of fish, 800 hard coral species and hundreds of others! There could be another eight million or more undiscovered species of organisms living in and around reefs. That’s epic!
Not just a pretty face
Coral reefs aren’t just a pretty face! They’re beautiful but it doesn’t stop there. The biodiversity maintained by their presence is important for many things. One of the other main benefits of coral reefs is their use in medicine.
We’re continuing to find new medicines from coral reef animals and plants. They can be cures for everything from bacterial infections to cancer. And we expect this to continue with future medical advances.
Coral reefs have been dubbed the earth’s ‘medicine cabinet’. This is because so many drugs have been created from coral reef organisms. We may continue to find the answers to medical problems in coral reefs, as we do with tropical rainforests. But only for as long as we keep coral reefs healthy!
Coral reefs provide limitless services to coastal and global communities they support. If coral reefs are destroyed and damaged, the services they once provided will also be damaged and nobody wants that!
Save the day
So whether you want to preserve their natural beauty and their wondrous creatures. Or if you’re driven by the money in your pocket. Coral reefs will save the day. So, protect them every way you can.
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