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10 Threats to the World’s Stunning Coral Reefs

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A stunning coral formation with fish, in shades of moody purple and teal.

8. Sedimentation

Think back on the photos of coral reefs you’ve seen, or, if you’ve been lucky enough to see one in person, the real thing. One thing you’ll note in almost all of them is the extremely clear water. Coral hates suspended sediment, and doesn’t thrive in waters clogged with dirt, debris and other materials. Sadly, sedimentation is on the rise thanks to development and the destruction of wetlands, which normally act like giant traps for sediment, preventing it from reaching the ocean (and, incidentally, preventing loss of valuable topsoil). As sedimentation increases, coral populations suffer.

9. Stormy Waters Ahead

Tropical storms, hurricanes and other rough weather are a fact of nature, but evidence suggests they may be increasing in frequency and severity in response to climate change. Coral reefs can be badly damaged as a result of storm surge, the high, aggressive waves associated with severe storms. Sadly, this doesn’t just damage the coral; it also exposes the shoreline to further damage, because the coral would normally act as a buffer zone to help protect the shore.

Fish fluttering around a coral reef.

10. Rising Sea Levels

Coral is highly sensitive to light levels (one reason it can’t handle sedimentation and algae blooms). As sea levels rise, the amount of available light will decrease around existing reefs. Coral won’t be able to grow under those conditions, and it may begin to die off, which means that it will cease to support the reef and the larger population of organisms that relies on the coral for food and shelter. Formerly diverse areas could become deserts very quickly, and projections suggest that at current predicted rates of sea level rise, many famous coral reefs, such as those in the Caribbean, won’t be able to keep pace.

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Photo credits: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Anna Fox, USFWS - Pacific Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and USFWS - Pacific Region.

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9:09PM PDT on Jul 22, 2013

All caused by humans.......

3:44AM PDT on Jul 20, 2013

thanks for sharing :)

6:20PM PDT on Jul 6, 2013

When I've seen coral grow it doesn't seem to be reliant upon all that went on down the branch. So when they're cleaved off by storm or man's breaking it - why do the polyps die? Can't they go on building longer, thicker, or spread out to continue life/living? Are they like trees which need the roots to bring more nutrients? What is it they need from the polyps below that once broken off - they perish? If they have bacteria and chlorophyllic material they get sustenance from - why would breaking them make them die? I would think that no matter where they land - if not subverse from the sun they should be able to go on living and building more coral. I didn't think even the hollows of corals past made a difference to those higher up and vice-versa.

10:30AM PDT on Jul 3, 2013

Grazie per l'articolo.

8:13PM PDT on Jun 26, 2013


3:08PM PDT on Jun 24, 2013

has everyone seen the coral reefs; i haven't ....though i dreamed of doing so as a child.

10:45AM PDT on Jun 24, 2013

we must look after every living thing on this planet and anything we do is better than doing nothing at is a beautiful planet lets keep it that way!!!

5:16PM PDT on Jun 23, 2013

How sad. I have read this story several times and each time I've been left with nothing to say.

How sad. To lose the natural beauty of coral reefs. I do not swim, therefore I can only see the beauty second hand.

The World is losing so many beautiful things. For some reason this particular loss saddens me more, especially at a time we seem to be accumulating losses at an alarming rate.

How sad.

2:30PM PDT on Jun 23, 2013

Great article......Going to share with local scouts.....thank you!!!!!

2:26PM PDT on Jun 23, 2013

Great article......Going to share with local scouts.....thank you!!!!!

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