When you think of important ecosystems what do you think of first? Many people would probably say rainforests or woodlands, but how many mention coral reefs? If you are a diver you have probably thought about the part they play in our ecosystem, but if you aren’t it may not have even crossed your mind. We generally have a very simple understanding of what coral reefs do and the roll they play in our environment. Let’s learn about how very important coral reefs are in the health of our Earth.
Important Marine Habitats
Fish and other marine animals live in coral reefs, we know this. However, did you know that around a quarter of the ocean’s fish come from reef habitats? That is a seriously large amount of fish! The reefs act as nurseries for juvenile fish and protect them as they grow large enough to head out away from the reef.
This is also hugely significant for humans. Around one billion people depend of coral reefs for their income and to eat. Without coral reefs these people would starve and have to move away from coastal areas. When properly managed, a square kilometer of coral reef can yield around 15 tonnes of fish and other edible marine life per year.
Reefs Guard Coastlines
Without coral reefs coastlines would be unprotected from breaking waves. They naturally protect coastal areas from flooding, erosion and loss of land and property during severe storms, typhoons, hurricanes, and even tsunamis. It has been proven time and time again that when coral reefs are destroyed, coastlines become damage and manmade defenses are often built to do the job of the reef.
Income from Tourism
Many countries, including Indonesia, where Papua Paradise Eco Resort is located, rely heavily on tourism. Raja Ampat in particular attracts divers from around the world thanks to is incredibly diverse coral reefs.
The money that can be made from dive tourism is much better than the income of a fisherman, so it is very important that governments and local people preserve the health of coral reefs. This is not to say they shouldn’t fish at all, but banning destructive fishing methods has been proven to be a positive move towards a better quality of life for the people of Raja Ampat. After all, the more pristine the reefs, the more divers that want to come and spend their money in the region.
Medicines from the Sea
The study of coral reef environments has always been quite far behind the study of other environments like rainforests. However, scientists are catching up and in the past couple of decades some incredible advances in medicine have come from coral reefs.
One fantastic example is secosteroids. This is an enzyme used by corals to protect themselves from disease, which has been found to be beneficial in the treatment of asthma, arthritis and other inflammatory disorders. Many anti-cancer compounds and treatments have also been discovered in coral reefs.
The fact that so many medical discoveries have been found in just a couple of decades means there must be many, many more to find. This is just another important reason to preserve and keep coral reefs as healthy as possible.
Did you learn a little about why we need coral reefs?
Coral reefs may be pretty, but they are so much more as well. Just as rainforests, marshlands, and deserts, they contribute to the health of our ecosystem as a whole. At Papua Paradise we strive to continue to educate local people and divers on the importance of coral reefs by showing them first hand. We’d love to know if you learned something new from this article, so leave us a comments below.