Since age she was when she first explored
Since Lauren could remember, she had been an avid environmentalist and keen explorer. From the moment she could read, Lauren spent hours on end reading every National Geographic she could get her hands on. In 1980, Lauren received a birthday gift she could have never imagined: a surprise trip to Australia. The continent was even more beautiful than she had expected, however, as remarkable as the kangaroos and Sydney Opera House were, that was not the true objective of the trip. Three days into the trip, Lauren and her family travelled to Queensland to snorkel in the largest living creature on Earth, the Great Barrier Reef. The reef was vibrant, lively, and truly the most exquisite sight Lauren had ever witnessed. As she grew older, her childlike awe expanded into full-blown admiration. Thirty years later, Lauren could still recall the beauty that was the Great Barrier Reef. As her children grew to be the same age she was when she first explored Australia, Lauren decided to take them on the expedition. Three days into the trip, Lauren took her own family to the same location, but rather than shedding tears of joy, she was overwhelmed with sadness and despair. Lauren had stopped researching coral, and was, therefore, unaware of the first global bleaching that had occured in 1998, and the many that had followed. Coral reefs have been called the “rainforests of the ocean” due to their vast biodiversity and genetic wealth (Kluger). Over the last few years, many humans have ignored the fact that a quarter of the world’s reefs are dead, and the fact that the situation is only getting worse (Kluger). On a universal scale, the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network found that nineteen percent of the world’s coral reefs are already dead from bleaching, a process that occurs when warm water temperatures cause corals to lose their essential photosynthetic zooxanthellae and vibrant colors (Story Hinckley). The situation is so severe that the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared the third ever global coral bleaching (“Coral Reef Health”). A comprehensive assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration similarly found that half of the remaining coral reefs in the United States are in fair or poor condition, and that almost one-third of coral species are threatened with extinction (Walsh). Moreover, in Australia alone, thirty to fifty percent of the Great Barrier Reef is already dead, and the realization that a newly discovered reef in the Amazon River is already under threat (Story Hinckley). The continuous destruction of coral reefs has been a critical endeavor concerning man’s interaction with the environment. The severity of these deeds can be validated through climate/pollution, fishing/boating, and tourism. The earth’s climate, along with coral reefs, have been brutally destroyed, in part, because of human actions. Humans cause pollution by burning fossil fuels, and the pollution has increased ocean temperature an average of 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit since the start of the Industrial Revolution (Baker). As global temperatures continue to rise from human-induced climate change, “tropical storms and hurricanes are likely to increase simultaneously” (Story Hinckley). Repeated storms can also harm the corals, continually diminishing their protective services (Story Hinckley). Furthermore, healthy corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae, which live inside them and provide energy through photosynthesis (Walsh). Warmer ocean temperatures can strain the corals, “causing them to eject their algae tenants” (Walsh). The result is sickly looking white, or “bleached,” corals that are vulnerable to disease and mass die-offs (Walsh). Increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere only leads to more acidic seas, which impair the ability of corals to spin their skeletal reefs (Walsh). Effective action on climate change has yet to begin, both nationally or globally. With this said, people cannot be astounded that coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef “has reduced to values similar to those seen in other coral reef areas in the world,” such as Indonesia and the Philippines (Brodie and Waterhouse). If action is not taken toward temperature changes, not only will the coral be lifeless and bleached, but the earth itself will be just as dead (Walsh). Moreover, humans have also altered the coral reefs through fishing, boating, and tourism. A study evaluated the environmental effects caused by an increase in cruises and overall tourism, including those in Bermuda (Jones). The study explored the consequences of “mega cruise ships resuspending large amounts of sediments that are washed over to nearby reefs,” such as pollution and impacts on local coral reefs. (Jones). The study found both aspects to be incredibly destructive to oceans, and specifically, the reefs (Jones). Additionally, significant action on fishing did not occur until the Trawl Management Plan of 2000, however, the plan has not been beneficial enough (Brodie and Waterhouse). Without enough fish to eat the seaweed, “the seaweed strangles the coral reefs” (Baker). Healthy populations of fish eat seaweed and are necessary to keep the planet in balance (Baker). Furthermore, commercial-fishing boats sailing over corals can damage or destroy reefs that have taken centuries to build. Overfishing “disrupts the delicate ecological balance that allows corals to thrive” (Baker). Even smaller recreational boats have the ability and potential to obliterate reefs in shallow seas. The act of tropical fish being captured and sold for monetary gain can be considered even more extreme and horrendous (Baker). While fish may look healthy in pet stores, many of them “have had to survive deliberate poisoning first,” as they are dosed with cyanide to stun them and make them easy to catch (Baker). Long after the fish have been netted, the corals are left to deal with the poison (Baker). Set-asides, such as the one off Hawaii, are the only proven way to protect corals from these threats (Baker). Evidently, humans must make monumental revisions throughout the world. Protecting marine areas is a common solution to coral reef degradation, yet coral reefs continue to decline worldwide (Abelson). In order to prevent degradation of reef structures, local and community action must enforced, along with associated ecosystem services (Abelson and Kennedy). This would consist of a low-carbon economy and expanding the range of Master of Public Administrations to include degraded reefs (Kennedy). These actions could assist in identifying sites containing the highest potential for recovery (Abelson). Because land-based source pollutants actively threaten coral reef ecosystems, humans could benefit from appropriate tools that evaluate the benefits and costs of implementing alternative land management strategies (Oleson). The best outcomes are achieved when landowners cooperate and target cost-effective road repairs (Oleson). Freshwater conservation and the use of environmentally friendly detergents would keep fresh water containing agricultural runoffs from being pumped into the ocean (Fine). Additionally, countries prevalent in tourism should implement eco-friendly managed resorts, therefore allowing for guests to be cautious toward the reefs (Moritz). In relation to the increasing heat of the water, certain species or geologic features could act as temperature moderators (Baker). Along with determination from both the common man and experts, the adaptation of even a few of these ideas could permanently transform the future and safety of coral reefs. As the dominant forces of the planet, humans need to look up from their daily lives to recognize the destruction they are not only allowing to happen, but are also responsible for. It would be a travesty for the children of 2050 to not have the same opportunity to appreciate the beauty that is the coral reefs.