Coral reefs are considered to be one of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on earth. From the Great Barrier Reef to the Caribbean’s treasures, coral reefs are an important and integral part of ocean life as there are many benefits of coral reefs to humans and the environment.
Coral reefs deal with a symbiotic relationship between photosynthetic algae and thousands of individual coral polyps, which are animals. These polyps are immobile and depend on algae to provide food and energy.
Coral reefs are ocean habitats occurring in shallow tropical waters. They contain the highest biodiversity on earth, despite only covering 1% of the ocean.
An estimated one million species of fish, invertebrates, corals, and algae can be found on or near coral reefs, and these are only the species that have been documented.
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Benefits of Coral Reefs
Not only do corals provide habitat and food to a myriad of marine organisms, but they are also crucially important to humans and the environment as well.
In smaller tropical countries, fish are an important subsistence resource to local communities, but are also economically important through the sale of fish.
In this article, we are going to take a survey on the benefits of Coral Reefs to humans and the environment. Which will go a long way to buttress the need to conserve and preserve our reefs. Follow me as we take an interesting long ride in this piece of work.
Outlined and discussed below are the 10 benefits of Coral Reefs to Humans and the environment
- Source of Food
- Support to Marine Life
- Protection of Coastlines
- Provides Medical Assistance
- Support to the Fishing Industry
- Preservation of Biodiversity
- Support to Tourism
- Nutrient Recycling
- Provides Habitat to Diverse Marine Organisms
1. Source of Food
Corals are considered to be the “rainforests of the ocean” and contain a diverse group of organisms that rely on corals as a source of food and shelter.
In addition to the hundreds of species of corals, they are home to a multitude of animals (approximately 25% of all marine life) including sponges, cnidarians, worms, crustaceans, mollusks, echinoderms, tunicates, sea turtles and sea snakes.
Corals are thought to house over 4,000 species of fish alone! People depend on the marine creatures that inhabit coral reefs more than they realize.
Over half a billion people depend on reefs for food, income, and protection. Fishing, diving, and snorkeling on and near reefs add hundreds of millions of dollars to local businesses.
The net economic value of the world’s coral reefs is estimated to be nearly tens of billions of site links of U.S. dollars per year.
However, people still tend to take these marine ecosystems for granted for reasons best known to them.
2. Support to Marine Life
Unlike other marine ecosystems, coral reefs support more species per unit area, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals, and hundreds of other marine life.
This doesn’t include the millions of undiscovered species that take shelter along coral reefs. Coral reefs provide an important ecosystem for life underwater.
3. Protection of Coastlines
Coral reefs have an estimated global value of £6 trillion each year, due in part to their contribution to the fishing and tourism industries and the coastal protection they provide.
Coral reefs are often called the rainforests of the sea, they protect coastlines from damaging effects of natural catastrophic events such as tropical storms, erosion, waves, etc.
Coral Reefs support about 25% of all marine life, including fish, invertebrates, and sea mammals, even though they cover less than 1% of the ocean floor.
Furthermore, the reef structures play an important role in helping reduce the impact of cyclones, hurricanes, and typhoons and serve as natural breakwaters. Since they extend tens of meters into the ocean, they’re effective in absorbing elements from the ocean and reducing coastal erosion.
The ridges in coral reefs act as barriers and can reduce wave energy by up to 97%, providing important protection from threats such as tsunamis.
They help protect areas such as mangrove forests and seagrass beds that act as nurseries for marine animals, as well as human coastal populations.
Studying these coral reefs is important because they provide a clear record of climatic events throughout history. After all, the impact of storms and human activity are recorded in changes in coral growth. These ecosystems are culturally important to indigenous people around the world.
Coral reefs teem with diverse life. Thousands of species can be found living on one reef. The Great Barrier Reef contains over 400 coral species, 1,500 fish species, 4,000 mollusk species, and six of the world’s seven sea turtle species.
The Coral Triangle a coral-rich marine region in Southeast Asia that encompasses the waters between Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea is the most biologically diverse marine ecosystem on Earth.
The coral reefs hold great importance for research and education purposes because there is more biodiversity per unit area than any other ecosystem.
5. Provides Medical Assistance
Corals are vast storehouses of genetic resources with significant medicinal potential. Many potential treatments for illness and diseases are obtained from coral reefs.
Drugs are been manufactured from extracts of coral reefs to address several medical issues of humans. Extracts from animals and plants living on reefs have been used to develop treatments for asthma, arthritis, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
6. Support to Fishing Industry
Diverse varieties of juvenile fishes are present in coral reefs. Healthy coral reefs keep fisheries in business. About half of all federally managed fisheries depend on marine ecosystems and related habitats for their income.
The fisheries industries are dependent on coral reefs for revenue generation. Moreover, statistics show that the Great Barrier Reef generates more than $1.5 billion every year for the Australian economy.
7. Preservation of Biodiversity
Coral reefs are host to juvenile fish that live further offshore, which form the backbone of other ecosystems. Mangroves are also sought after by some species of fish because it’s where they lay their breeding juvenile ecosystems.
Over one million plants and animals can be found within marine labyrinths of living limestone.
Marine life forms take shelter in corals because they assist in carbon fixing, provide nitrogen, and provide other essential nutrients.
Since corals serve as a protective guard for these marine organisms, the exposure could cause imbalances in the food web and lead to a decline in fish populations.
Thousands of marine species would be left without a home due to the absence of reefs.
8. Support to Tourism
Corals hold much appeal for those seeking to swim over glimmering gardens of coral alongside colorful hordes of fish.
Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries, which contributes significantly to the global economy. A lot of tourism depends on the natural environment, and coral reefs can be considered the poster child of nature-based tourism.
A study published in the Journal of Marine Policy reveals that they support 70 million trips every year, making Coral reefs so alluring and a powerful engine for tourism.
Visitors are willing to pay a premium for remote areas where they can enjoy these panoramic seascapes even more.
Some nations often depend heavily on tourism for foreign currency, jobs, economical growth, and healthy reefs are huge drivers of tourism.
9. Nutrient Recycling
Aside from providing essential resources, like food and drugs, coral reefs protect and preserve the natural order by purifying water and air and breaking down pollutants.
The coral reefs help in nitrogen and carbon fixation, which directly leads to nutrient cycling. They provide nutrients to the marine food chain.
10. Provides Habitat to Diverse Marine Organisms
Coral reefs develop and grow slowly in warm tropical waters, building up their colorful shapes over hundreds and thousands of years. Coral reefs have ecological importance as they provide habitats and shelter to diverse marine organisms.
Helping to ensure the conservation of species. As a result of the diversity of life found in the habitats created by corals, reefs are often called the “rainforests of the sea.” About 25% of the ocean’s fish depend on healthy coral reefs.
Fishes and other organisms shelter, feed, reproduce and rear their young in the many nooks and crannies formed by corals.
Coral reefs sit at the interface of two powerful societal trends. On the one hand, coral reef ecosystems provide vast resources to human communities, resources that are increasingly needed as the human population grows, as well as providing vast significant importance for the environment
Furthermore, corals have long been popular as souvenirs, home decor, and for jewelry, but many individuals are not aware that these beautiful structures are made by living creatures.
Fewer still realize that corals are dying off at alarming rates. Hence there is an essential need to protect and conserve coral reefs in the environment.
- How Coral Reefs are Formed?
- Global warming – All You Need To Know
- Why is Biodiversity Important to Humans?
- Conservation vs Preservation | Key Differences & Examples
- 8 Effects of Rising Sea Levels on the Environment
Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.