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Coral Reef & Helix Anchors
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coral reef background and experience

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coral reef facts

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Coral Reef Facts

Coral Reef Facts

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  • Coral reefs provide homes for over 25% of all marine life -- yet take up less than 1% of the ocean floor.
  • Coral reefs are over 100 million years old and are the largest living structures. The Great Barrier Reef, which is over 2,000 km long, can be seen from outer space.
  • Scientists have found as many as 3,000 different species living on one reef.
  • Coral reefs protect shorelines from erosion and storm damage. Each square meter of reef protects an estimated $47,000 of property value -- and without reefs, parts of Florida would be under water.
  • Coral reefs are a tremendous medical resource, providing chemical compounds used in antihistamines, antibiotics, and other treatments for illnesses ranging from asthma to leukemia and heart disease. Indeed, more than half of all new cancer drug research focuses on marine organisms.
  • Coral reefs attract millions of visitors to beaches around the world each year, adding to a local tourism economy that makes up 10% of all jobs worldwide.
  • Pacific Islanders rely on coral reefs for more than 90% of their protein intake -- and more than 350 million people worldwide depend on corals for food and survival.
  • Healthy reefs make better waves for surfing.
  • Corals are animals - not rocks or plants - and they come in two types, hard and soft.
  • Some deep water corals grow very slowly -- as little as one foot in 1,000 years, while some shallow water corals may grow up to 6 inches per year.
  • Corals need very specific conditions to survive: a narrow range of water temperatures, access to sunlight, and low levels of pollution.
  • 35 million acres of coral reefs have been destroyed by human activity -- and Reef Check scientists have data showing that 10% of the world's reefs died during the past 4 years, a number that could rise to 20-30% by 2010 if nothing is done.
  • Over 1,500 divers and over 150 scientists have participated in Reef Check monitoring programs during the past five years, producing data for the "Global Crisis" reports on the status of the world's reefs.
Threats to Reefs:
  • More than 75% of the earth's people live in coastal areas, bringing to pristine coral reefs such threats as over-fishing, water pollution, and direct physical damage.
  • Fishing with explosives or poisons kills not only fish but reefs -- for example, in the Philippines, some 400,000 pounds of cyanide are dumped into the ocean each year and have badly degraded local reefs.
  • Sedimentation caused by runoff from poorly planned and managed construction, logging, or mining can make reef waters muddy with silt and clay, cutting the reefs off from the sunlight they need to survive.
  • Water pollution from sewage, oil, and other chemicals can poison coral reefs. Ordinary trash dumped in the ocean can also kill coral reef life -- plastic bags have been found in the stomachs of reef fish and turtles.
  • Coastal development, which involves alteration of coastline habitats and cutting of mangrove forests, also threatens the delicate web of life in the ocean.
  • Recreational activities such as boating, diving, and fishing can damage coral reefs if people are careless about grabbing, walking on, or collecting coral.
  • Global warming is one of the most serious threats to the reefs. Scientists expect sea temperatures to rise between 1 and 4 degrees Farenheit in the next 20 years. When water temperatures get too high, corals lose their symbiotic algae inside them, causing them to turn white or "bleach" and eventually die. Bleached corals are spreading in the Pacific and around the world.
coral reef picture
How to Help:
  • Learn more about coral reefs, the species they support and the benefits they give to the world. Share your knowledge. The more people know about coral reefs, the more they value them.
  • Reduce usage of chemical pesticides and fertilizers -- they often wind up in the watershed and the ocean.
  • Encourage your political representatives to strengthen national policies and programs to improve coastal water quality and to protect coral reefs.
  • Visit and support Coral Reef Parks to see some of the world's healthiest reefs and a viable solution to the global crisis facing reefs.
  • When you visit a coral reef, follow all local regulations and customs; when diving or snorkeling, never touch or stand on a coral reef. Even slight contact can harm these sensitive systems when repeated by hundreds of divers.
  • Recycle -- this is one of the biggest things everyone can do to reduce human impact on the earth and the oceans.
  • Support pet shops that sell certified marine species that have not been captured through damaging techniques; ask your local representatives to increase federal funding for coral reef research and restoration.
  • Don't ever leave garbage or trash on the beach or in the water.
  • Volunteer with organizations working to clean up local waterways, and remove invasive species -- even if you don't live near the ocean, remember that the health of all waterways (rivers, lakes, bays) affects the ocean.

Source: MacGillivray Freeman's Coral Reef Adventure


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