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   home/sustainability on coral reefs

The microdocs in this section focus on the coral reef ecosystem to explore factors influencing ecological sustainability.

Sustainability on Coral Reefs
 
 Summary
  • Reefs supply millions with food and other resources.
  • This ecosystem is facing greater rates of disturbance because of our actions.
  • Too much disturbance reduces the productivity, diversity and resilience of the coral reef ecosystem.
  • Preserving this ecosystem will rely largely on preserving the habitats and species of the coral reef ecosystem.

Healthy coral reefs supply food and other resources for millions of people. Worldwide, the health of coral reefs is eroding because many of our actions create too much disturbance. Coral reefs are becoming less productive just when we need them the most

 Why care about coral reefs?

Coral reefs cover less than 1% of the oceans area, but they directly support millions of people by supplying food, employment, and other resources. Even more people benefit from coral reefs indirectly; this ecosystem helps feed 1 billion people in Asia alone.

The human population is nearly 7 billion people, and it is likely to grow to 9 billion by 2040. We need coral reefs (and other ecosystems) to supply more and more resources to support our growing numbers, but they are being increasingly threatened with destruction.

 Threats to coral reef sustainability

Coral reefs are under threat worldwide. Habitat destruction threatens 1/3 of all reef building corals with extinction.

Threats to this ecosystem include:

  • Pollution
  • Over-fishing
  • Ocean acidification
  • Habitat destruction
  • Global warming
  • Eutrophication
  • Disease
  • Destructive fishing practices
  • Damage from anchors and watercraft

Coral reefs can recover from these disturbances if given enough time. However, the disturbance rate is building to the point where a new disturbance hits before the reef has recovered from the last one. This erodes the resilience and productivity of the coral reef ecosystem.

 How do you maintain coral reef productivity?

Ecosystem productivity typically increases with diversity, and coral reefs are no exception. This productive ecosystem is home for over ΒΌ of all marine fish species. Protecting coral reef diversity is crucial to keeping this ecosystem productive.

Diversity also affects coral reefs ability to resist disturbance. Species react to disturbance in various ways; some species cannot live in disturbed areas where other species will thrive. Diverse reefs are more resilient and have a better chance to resist and recover from disturbance.

We can protect coral reef productivity by:

  • Protecting habitat
  • Reducing pollution
  • Reducing damaging run-off from the land

Consensus statement highlighting common threats to Pacific Ocean ecosystems

 References

Bruce, S. (2008, July 10). One Third of Reef-Building Corals Face Extinction. EurekAlert. Retrieved 10 July 2008 from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-07/ci-oto070208.php

Hughes, T. P. (2003, August 15). Climate Change, Human Impacts, and the Resilience of Coral Reefs. Science 301:929-933. Retrieved 18 June 2008 from http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/301/5635/929

ICUN. (2008, 10 July). One Third of Reef-Building Corals Face Extinction. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 10 July 2008 from http://cms.iucn.org/index.cfm?uNewsID=1279

International Coral Reef Initiative. (2007). What are coral reefs? IYOR 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2008 from http://www.iyor.org/reefs/

Kent et al. (2008, July 10). One-Third of Reef-Building Corals Face Elevated Extinction Risk from Climate Change and Local Impacts. Sciencexpress. PDF retrieved 10 July 2008 from http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/rapidpdf/1159196v1.pdf

Moore, F. & Best, B. (2001). Coral Reef Crisis: Causes and Consequences. The American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved 1 April 2008 from http://www.aaas.org/international/africa/coralreefs/ch1.shtml

UN Atlas of the Oceans. (2007, July 17). The Value of Coral Reefs. UN Atlas of the Oceans. Retrieved 1 April 2008 from http://www.oceansatlas.com/servlet/CDSServlet?status=ND0zMTgxOCZjdG5faW5mb192aWV3X3NpemU9Y3RuX2luZm9fdmlld19mdWxsJjY9ZW4mMzM9KiYzNz1rb3M~

US Census Bureau. (2008, June 18). World POPClock Projection. US Census Bureau, Population Division/International Programs Center. Retrieved 3 July 2008 from http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/popclockworld.html

US Census Bureau. (2008, June 18). World Population Trends. US Census Bureau, Population Division/International Programs Center. Retrieved 3 July 2008 from http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idb/worldpopinfo.html

Wafar, M. & Wafar, S. (2001). Coral Diversity. The National Institute of Oceanography (NIO). Retrieved 1 April 2008 from http://www.nio.org/the_seas/around_us/corals/chap1.htm

World Resources Institute. (1998, June). Reefs and people: What is at stake? World Resources Institute. Retrieved 1 April 2008 from http://www.wri.org/publication/content/8232

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