Coral reef habitats represent some of the densest and most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth. They cover only 0.2 percent of the ocean’s floor, but more than one million species of fish, invertebrates, and algae can be found in and around the world’s reefs. More than 25% of all marine species depends on coral reefs.
Biodiverse ecosystems are especially important for nature and makind. It ensures that even after major catastrophic events, some life will continue to survive.
The reef is not only important for its direct inhabitants but also many pelagic species (e.g. sea turtles, tuna, sharks and dolphins) depend on the reef as a source of food or shelter for their young. Also many land animals depend on coral reef systems for their food and are part of the reef ecosystem.
Here are some more reasons why our coral reefs are so important:
World’s poorest fishing communities depend on fishing in or near coral reefs. A healthy reef has a direct consequence to their livelihood and often survival. An estimated 1 billion people is dependant on food from coral reefs.
Coral reefs generate US$36 billion in global tourism value per year. Over 70 countries and territories have reefs that generate approximately $1 million per square kilometre in tourism. These reefs are generating jobs, and critical foreign exchange earnings for many small island states that have few alternative sources of employment and income.
The coral reef plays an important role in the protection of the coastline against erosion. It forms often a natural barrier against storms. A natural barrier that can adapt with increasing sea levels is especially important in these times.
Corals and plants that live on the reef are seen as important sources of new medicines being developed to treat various diseases e.g. cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.
Corals have chemical defences to protect themselves from predators. A lot of research is done on the medicinal potential of these substances. In the future, coral reef ecosystems could represent an increasingly important source of medical treatments, nutritional supplements, pesticides, cosmetics, and other commercial products.
So it is clear that besides the beauty of the coral, the reef plays an essential role in the survival of humans, marine life and many species on land. A collapse of coral reefs will disturb the entire ecosystem of the oceans of which the total consequences can not even be overseen.