Friday Climate Stories

Coral reefs

Coral reefs are the rainforests of the oceans, they are pieces of paradise that provides home for a stunning array of life. The base of this massive ecosystems are the reef-building corals, colonies of thousands of polyps, that are responsible for the hard calcium carbonate structure of coral reefs. Barely seeable with human eyes every polyp has a photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae and both of these organisms live in symbiosis.

All the coral reefs together occupy less than 0,1% of the Oceans surface, however they provide home for more than 25% of all the marine species.

But these underwater complex and marvellous cities are also fragile and are currently under a dramatic threat, mostly cause of the rising water temperatures, oceanic acidification, overfishing and contamination. And the sad true is that half of the world corals have already been lost in the past 40 years. And the climate scientists estimate that 90% of all coral reefs will disappear in the next 20 years.

For you to better understand how everything is connected, the more CO2 in the atmosphere, the more CO2 is absorbed into the oceans, causing the oceans to become more acidic. This increased acidity makes it harder for corals to build their calcium carbonate skeleton and makes their skeletons more fragile and susceptible to breaking. Plus, when surface ocean temperatures pass a livable range, the coral kicks out the zooxanthellae, causing “coral bleaching” and the eventual death of the coral.

So, in order to avoid the disappearance of this rainforests of the Oceans, we must act now. Thanks to a few anonymous heroes and NGOs like Coral Gardeners, Coral Reef Alliance and Coral Guardian some damaged reefs are already being rebuild through coral farming and the transplant of coral cuttings onto degraded areas of reef. But without a serious global commitment to fight climate change, the work of these heroes is just delaying a catastrophic end for our corals, our Oceans, and all of us.