Undamaged Coral Reef

Undamaged Coral Reef

If you have ever been snorkeling or scuba diving at any of the Atlantic or Caribbean coral reefs off the coast of the Florida Keys, Mexico, or beyond consider yourself lucky enough to have witnessed the beauty and wonder that the ocean can contain. Your children may not be so lucky.

Coral Reef damaged by boat anchor

Coral Reef damaged by boat anchor

In the July 10th web edition of Science, Dr. Kent Carpenter and his colleagues explore the extent of coral reef destruction and the risk of extinction of the myriad species of coral. Of the 704 reef-building coral species assessed in this report, 231 are listed in the Threatened categories, while 407 are in Threatened and Near Threatened categories. This is in vast contrast to their assessment of numbers before 1998, when 20 species would have been categorized as Near Threatened and only 13 listed as Threatened. This is a dramatic increase in the number of coral species on the verge of extinction.

According to Carpenter, although the disturbances in the coral populations are lead by a change in the global climate, local threats by human interference reduces the ability of coral to withstand those global changes. The loss of coral’s resilience due to human disturbance such as coastal development, over fishing, pollution, and even eco-tourism could make extinction a real and present-day threat to our beautiful coral reefs. According to an article in Science News online edition, a status report on reef communities by the NOAA reef research program found that 69% of Pacific reefs are still in good condition, but only 25% of Caribbean and Atlantic ones fall in that category

Not only would this mass extinction have a huge economic impact on communities that rely on reef fish for food, this could this devastate the bio-diversity found in and around coral reefs and impact the ocean as a whole. Education and awareness of our impact on these ancient structures is an important step in changing our destructive presence (whether through fishing, snorkeling, or the like) to unobtrusive visitors that leave no traces behind.

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