Corals are tiny animals that, collectively, play a huge role in the marine environment. They are also very valuable to people through the many ecosystem services they provide. These are services that we benefit greatly from and that nature provides for free, such as oxygen production by plants or water filtration by wetlands.
One of the ecosystem services that coral reefs provide us with is coastal protection. The reefs that corals build are very effective at protecting coastlines from large tropical storms. When waves break over the top of a reef, this absorbs approximately 80% of wave energy. This protection saves coastal countries billions of dollars worth of damage from extreme weather events.
That’s great for people who live near the ocean, but what if you live in a landlocked city such as, let’s say, Edmonton, Canada? Well, if you enjoy eating seafood then you are definitely still benefiting from corals. Coral reefs are the base of the tropical marine food web and support an enormous amount of diversity. In fact, coral reefs occupy only about 0.1% of the seafloor but are home to 25% of all marine life. This smorgasbord of diversity produces about 15 tons of seafood per year in a single square kilometre of a well-managed reef.
Worldwide, coral reefs also draw in a large number of tourist dollars, somewhere in the range of $36 billion annually. Coral reefs are associated with warm, calm and clear waters – the ideal conditions for any beach vacation. These beautiful ecosystems support water activities such as snorkelling and scuba diving, where corals and their inhabitants are the main attraction. Many people benefit from the beauty of coral reefs without even getting in the water, such as through beautiful beaches, fresh seafood, and stunning views. So next time you enjoy your favourite seafood dish, go for a swim, or take a walk along the beach to appreciate the sunset over the sea, be sure to thank corals!
If you want to give an even bigger thanks to corals for all that they do for us, you can take a few steps to help protect them. Even if you live nowhere near the ocean, you can still take many different actions that will benefit coral reefs:
- When eating seafood, be sure to choose MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified sustainable options.
- Reduce your carbon footprint by limiting your red meat consumption, and by walking, biking, or taking public transport as opposed to driving.
- You can also reduce plastic waste by avoiding single-use plastics and opting for reusable options.
- The next time you go on vacation, be sure to bring your reef-safe sunscreen.
If following these simple steps just isn’t enough for you, please feel free to contact our Orca-Eco team for information about our coral reefs, oceans and environment. For the Orca-Eco team’s contact please email us at [email protected]
Article by Kianna Gallagher – Conservation Intern