Coral reefs are a very important part of the ocean ecosystem. They are found in over 100 territories throughout the world and benefit both marine life and humans on land.1 About 25% of all marine life and 500 million people depend on coral reefs.2 They provide benefits such as protecting coastlines from flooding, tourism opportunities, medicines, and food security.1

Keeping coral reefs safe is integral to conservation efforts. They currently face threats from warmer water, pollution, acidification, overfishing, and more. This causes them to bleach, which puts them at further risk of dying. Coral has a symbiotic relationship with algae, which is how they get their color. However, threats from warmer waters or acidification tend to put them under stress. When this happens, the relationship between the coral and the algae ends, which causes the coral to turn white. At that point, although still alive, they’re at risk. Many usually die after this happens.3

In order to protect coral reefs and thus, protect the wildlife and communities that rely on them, scientists are trying various methods. For example, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) is dedicated to international cooperation to help manage and restore coral reefs and other ecosystems.1

Another method scientists propose is declaring more marine reserves that are away from humans. This allows reefs to function normally and build resilience without being disturbed by human activity. Another method is collecting and breeding the coral that seems to have better resilience to the changes in its habitat. For example, a team of scientists has taken coral that seems to fare better than others in warmer waters and have been breeding it and putting it back into the reef. The hope is that with more coral that’s already naturally resilient to what’s going on, the better chance the entire reef has of surviving.3

However, scientists say that overall these are temporary solutions without overarching action against climate change. This is because the oceans absorb the majority of the world’s heat. As temperatures continue to rise, the marine life within it will continue to be affected. There have been coral reef extinctions before, all of which were due to heat and ocean acidification. They’ll come back, but it takes thousands of years for that to happen.3

Conservation is multi-faceted and is connected to the many different species and ecosystems on our planet. We want to bring you the best resources possible to learn all about our natural world. Whether that’s through our emails, our classroom lessons, or Passport to Wildlife.

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