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There is an ever growing concern among the world's scientists over the health of our reef systems, and not without good reason. Reef  systems al over the  world over are being exploited and depleted to such drastic lengths that entire communities are suffering the consequences. Coral has a place in the human mind as something of beauty beneath the sea, and we certainly know that it is a living creature.

Bleached_coral
A bleached patch of coral

Photo Credit: mattk1979

Corals are tiny animals that take up residence in waters that are nutrient deficient. Closely related to sea anemones, corals polyps cluster together and secrete calcium carbonate to form their exoskeleton, the foundation of the reef. Corals flourish with the symbiotic relationship they have with zooxanthellae, tiny protozoa that live within the exoskeleton of the coral.

Coral reefs have a complex role in the Earth's ecosystems

Through process of photosynthesis, the zooxanthellae provide nutrients for the coral, and the coral provides shelter and nutrients to the zooxanthellae by means of its waste. Because of this relationship, corals can create massive networks that provide food, shelter, and breeding grounds for thousands of species of fish and other marine animals.

Coral Reefs House 25% of all ocean's species

Although coral reefs only make up one tenth of one percent of Earth's ocean surface, but amazingly, they house 25 percent of the ocean's species! That kind of figure can only mean that the reefs are a crucial component of the ocean's ecosystems.

When the reefs die, the fish go elsewhere, and that will have serious implications for communities that rely on the reef for survival. Reefs also provide a crucial barrier for islands and coastal areas during storms, preventing full wave energy from reaching the shore and causing more destruction. Indeed, without reefs, life of all kinds on small islands would face a serious threat.

Healthy_coral_reef
A healthy coral reef

Photo Credit: USFWS Pacific

The irony of coral being so fundamental to a large contingent of the planet is that it is delicate, extremely susceptible to pollution, temperature fluctuations, and of course, overfishing. The rising acidity of the ocean plays a significant role in corals' demise, as it interferes with calcium carbonate production, which the coral needs for structure.

It is estimated that ten percent of the world's coral reefs are dead, and sixty percent are at risk of the same as a result of human activity. Because coral formations are inherently slow-growing, we are facing a very real issue of depleting a resource much faster than we can fix or replace it.

Have you ever participated in a coral reef conservation project?

That is why it is more important than ever that people educate others about coral reefs, and for those who are able, become involved in their preservation and rehabilitation. Divers are a valuable resource for coral conservation projects, and there are many volunteer opportunities around the globe.

Fish_on_reef
In a healthy ecosystem you will find lots of fish

Photo Credit: nosha

Even without SCUBA skills people can help contribute to their health by participating in beach or waterway cleanups, choosing sustainable fish, using eco-friendly products in and out of the house, and remembering to admire, but not disturb ocean life when we get the chance to see it. Corals provide a myriad of services to the world at large, and it is up to us to make sure it's taken care of.

Would you like to go dive and explore reefs and help conserve them too? Feel free to contact us. We have multiple partners that offer dive packages and who organize clean ups too.

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Blog written by: Rutger Thole who founded bookyourdive early 2012 because he saw that there was no simple and easy to use platform where divers could go to, to read scuba blogs, browse dive centers within locations and where they could read reviews from other scuba divers. Now working full time with a small dedicated team to ensure the best user experience a scuba diver gets on the web.

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