The greatest threat to coral reef ecosystems is anthropogenic climate change. As far as coral reefs are concerned, climate change means shifts in water temperatures, which causes thermal stress and coral bleaching. As carbon dioxide continues to warm Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, coral ecosystems suffer the consequences. Coral bleaching has been demonstrably linked with warming water temperatures.

On top of that, algae blooms, brought on by pollutants and run-off, reduce the amount of light able to reach underwater reef species. Severe storms can topple entire beds of coral reefs, potentially wiping out large populations at once. Because sea level level rise, a product of climate change, is projected to worsen the severity of tropical storms, it seems reasonable to draw a causal connection between anthropogenic climate change and the declining survival of coral reef ecosystems.

Why Are Coral Reefs Important?

Coral reefs are aquatic ecosystems made of layers of individual polyps built atop of the skeletons of other dead polyps. Coral reefs are ecologically important because they house thousands of other fish and marine species. Coral reefs help protect coastal regions from storms and floods by reducing waving action. Ipso facto, coral reefs help limit infrastructure damage and mitigate human fatalities. Coral reefs along coasts also provide food and medicine. Declines in coral reef calcification (a system of coral growth) causes erosions and destruction in coral reef ecosystems.

plants on shoreline
shallow water shore

The ocean is an essential sink for carbon, absorbing about approximately one-third of excess atmospheric carbon. Increasing carbon levels lessens coral reef growth rates. Coral reefs being sensitive to water temperature changes amplifies coral reef calcification rates. If global reef ecosystems erode faster than they are able to grow, the world will witness dwindling reef populations. Because the species of many shallow water ecosystems depend on reefs for survival, they are an indispensable resource- not just to aquatic species, but likewise to mankind.

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