Why Florida’s Corals Are Worth Protecting
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), we have lost 50 percent of the world’s coral reefs. An increasing amount of carbon dioxide in oceans has led to more acidic water, weakening them by making it more difficult for coral reefs to create and maintain their calcium carbonate skeletons and shells. Corals can also be harmed by trash, boats anchored on the reef, destructive fishing practices, and sunscreen. This is quite tragic, as corals are incredible natural resources that provide many benefits to our society. Here is why Florida’s corals are worth protecting:
According to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, coral reefs play an integral part in the success of economies worldwide, supporting jobs, tourism, and fisheries. According to one estimate, they provide economic benefits worth approximately $375 billion annually. Furthermore, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggests that coral reefs in southeast Florida have an asset value of $8.5 billion, generating $4.4 billion in local sales, $2 billion in local income, and 70,400 full and part-time jobs. Additionally, the fish that grow and live on coral reefs provide a large source of food: in the United States, half of all federally managed fisheries are dependent on coral reefs. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Services estimates that coral reefs provide U.S. fisheries with an annual commercial value of over $100 million. Also, reef-based recreational fisheries produce more than $100 million annually in the United States.
The Importance Of Coral Reefs
The Florida Museum also notes several other areas that benefit from coral reef conservation:
- More than 500 federally managed fish and invertebrate species rely on coral reefs and similar habitats. Furthermore, they yield many tons of commercial fish every year worldwide. They also provide important recreational subsistence fisheries.
- Shoreline Protection
- By protecting shorelines and reducing wave action, coral reefs prevent the loss of life and property as well as erosion and flooding. Additionally, they provide the sediments that eventually become sand on Florida’s beaches.
- Human Health
- Sometimes referred to as “medicine cabinets of the future”, coral reefs hold great promise for pharmaceuticals such as anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory drugs. Additionally, coral skeletons have been used as bone substitutes in reconstructive bone surgery.
- Another way coral reefs can help the economy is by generating tourism. Ecotourism has become increasingly popular over the past few years, attracting millions of tourists annually. Furthermore, many tropical countries are dependent on tourism to bring foreign currency to support local economies.
- Reefs are “living laboratories” for scientists and students who can study their ecology and impacts on the environment.
Our Duty To The Environment
Our treatment of the environment is an expression of our love and appreciation for all the plants and animals inhabiting the world. We have a responsibility to tend and care for all of the habitats and creatures in our world, as they are vital to our survival and ability to thrive. We can start by taking action to protect coral reefs, a wonderful asset to our society’s plethora of beautiful natural resources.