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Endangered Species: Protecting coral reefs

Courtesy: Flickr/USFWS Pacific Region

Courtesy: Flickr/USFWS Pacific Region


By Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter
Thursday, November 28, 2013, 5:16 PM

Rising ocean temperatures, disease and a spike in recreational and commercial fishing activities have had a massive impact on the environment.

Because of this, multiple species of coral are in trouble.

In December 2012, NOAA proposed listing 66 coral species on the Endangered Species Act in an effort to save a resource that generates approximately $1.1 billion and thousands of jobs worldwide.

The proposal made headlines at the time, while sparking a conversation about an important cause.

"Healthy coral reefs are among the most economically valuable and biologically diverse ecosystems on earth," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., on behalf of NOAA.

"Corals provide habitat to support fisheries that feed millions of people; generate jobs and income to local economies through recreation, tourism, and fisheries; and protect coastlines from storms and erosion ... this is an important, sensible next step toward preserving the benefits provided by these species, both now and into the future."

It has been estimated that coral reefs generate $200 million annually in the U.S. alone -- but coral is in trouble and reefs around the world are dwindling at an alarming rate.

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in October 2012, the Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its coral since 1985. If current trends continue, experts say that number could halve again by 2022.

Courtesy: Flickr/q.phia

Courtesy: Flickr/q.phia

When coral is in trouble, the entire ecosystem stands to suffer. A single reef can be home to up to 3,000 different animal species, all of which could face extinction should the planet's coral reefs cease to exist.

Coral also protects land-dwellers by acting as a natural filtration system in the water and serving as an effective barrier against storm surge and erosion, hence the term "barrier reef".

Numerous studies are being conducted on how to mitigate threats surrounding coral, but in the meantime, 3D-printing is helping the cause.

In March 2012, Reef Arabia and Australian-based company Sustainable Oceans International began deploying 270 3D-printed concrete units designed to closely mimic sandstone reefs.

The ubnits were placed in damaged areas of the Arabian Gulf off of Bahrain to serve as a starting point for a new coral to develop.

Authorities are monitoring the progress, but so far, the initiative looks promising.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP

  • Conserve water. Reducing your water consumption curbs pollution and reduces the amount of runoff that trickles into waterways.
  • Don't pollute. Never, under any circumstance, put trash in the water. When swimming in the ocean, try to use biodegradable perfumes, sunscreen, makeup and deodorant. 
  • Make your next vacation coral reef friendly. Visit The Nature Conservancy to learn more.
  • Curb your plastic consumption.
  • Keep coral in the water. Don't buy souvenirs made from endangered coral and if you visit a reef, don't touch it.

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