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CORALS IN CRISIS

Recently, I had been to Andaman Islands, one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had till date. Ever since I came back from the tour, there’s not a day that passes by without thinking about the beauty of nature that the picturesque of the islands brought before my eyes.

Corals above surface

Sight of the ecosystem while scuba diving

One of the main attractions of any island is it’s marine tourism. And, the Andaman islands have been very efficiently conducting this sector. The places are clean, well instructed by guides, with least chaos. But, among all of this the coral reef communities have substantially been altered due to human activities over the last several decades. The abundance and diversity of fishes and reef building corals have decreased drastically. Such reef degradation directly affects coastal communities in numerous ways, including the loss of income from fishing and tourism as well as reduced coastal buffering of storms as reefs die and erode away.

There are specifically two types of stressors with reef systems: natural and human – induced.
These stressors can be broadly classified into:

Sedimentation: Sediment pollution from the land can have severe consequences on the corals. But, a study shows that in separate reefs the current and waves differ illustrating how quick moving currents can flush away these sediments soon enough while a lesser forceful current may let the sediments re- suspended in the water. Construction and mining can create a great deal of silt and soil run off. This sedimentation deprives the coral ecosystem of sunlight and nutrients leaving the area inhospitable.

Reef Bleaching: A direct consequence of Global Warming. With the increase in global warming the water temperatures have also risen leading the corals to expel internal microorganisms that give corals their vibrant colors. Bleaching events have thus become very common

Over-Fishing: The vast biodiversity of coral reefs consequently create an abundant fishing area for locals. This leads to overfishing of reef herbivore organisms which makes the coral reefs more vulnerable and unable to recover from large environmental disturbances. Unfortunately, the practice of poison fishing where cyanide is used to stun the fishes do not directly kill them but when this cyanide gets in the nooks of the reef, the coral often dies in the cloud of poison.

Water Pollution: This not only leads into the change in the chemical make up of the water but also block life giving sunlight to the reef. The adversities are added on when large floating pieces of trash cut young coral polyps off from the nutrients they need, to grow in.

Careless Tourism: Much destruction to coral reefs could be prevented with just a bit of education for those who want to explore these interesting natural creations. Divers, snorkelers and other sea lovers often inadvertently damage the reef. By simply touching coral the oils on human fingers can kill whole areas of coral reefs. Boating and fishing can also damage coral reefs with carelessly dropped anchors or lines.

While all these adversities are adding on to the coral reef degradation, there’s something we could do to conserve and restore these beauties and the ecosystem as whole.

Coral aquaculture – restoring

Since, the location of this community is out in the open water, where there is no distinct ownership under government or private institutions it becomes difficult to delegate responsibility. So, the environmental activists have taken up the aim of coral restoration. They’ve adapted programs in collaboration with some conservation organizations and working collectively in the conservation process. We can also act in favour of these programs by taking the initiative to manage stream flow, and set up coral nurseries. 

Restoration and conservation of this ecosystem will help us survive the very nature and beauty of the coastal reefs. There’s a danger of thinking that we’ve found the technical solution, so therefore we keep damaging the reefs, and that we can fix them in future. But, as once said, “prevention is better than cure”.

 

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change. Once, we start implementing this quote positively no such indigenous ecosystem shall be explored to such extent which leads to it’s depletion. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shreya

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