Coral Reefs are the "Rainforests" of the ocean. Reefs are ecologically important ecosystems and have a high biodiversity that serves as a storage bank of rich genetic resources. They are a source of food and medicine, and they protect the coast from wave erosion. Coral reefs are found in about 100 countries. Coral Reefs are home to over 25 percent of all marine life and are among the world's most fragile and endangered ecosystems. In the last few decades over 35 million acres of Coral Reefs have been obliterated. Reefs off of 93 countries have been damaged . When corals are stressed by high temperature, ultraviolet light or other environmental changes, they lose their symbiotic algal cells, and appear white (the white skeleton is actually visible through the transparent tissue). Depending on the intensity and duration of the stress, the corals may recover or die.

If the present rate of destruction continues, 70% of the world's coral reefs will be destroyed within the next few decades.

Climate change will destroy the world's great coral reefs within a century, according to a report by German and Australian marine scientists.

The researchers say governments must take action now to reduce the emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide, which are thought to be behind a rise in average global temperatures.

A slight rise in temperature can bleach coral like this The scientists combined their coral expertise with the latest climate models to project what is likely to happen to the world's greatest reefs if global warming remains unchecked. Their study suggests the unique marine environments will increasingly become victim to a process known as coral bleaching.

A slight rise in maximum water temperatures - only one to two degrees - can stress the corals. This causes them to expel the microscopic organisms, known as zooxanthellae, which color their tissues and provide them with essential nutrients.

If they zooxanthellae do not return, the corals will die. In 1998, the warmest year on record, every reef system in the world's tropical oceans was affected by some degree of bleaching. The report says the frequency and intensity of bleaching is set to rise.

The report's lead author is Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, an expert on coral bleaching at Sydney University. Coral reefs could be eliminated from most areas of the world by 2100, Even the world's largest reef - the Great Barrier Reef off Australia - could be dead within 30 years unless measures are taken now to slow climate change.

Sedimentation-Construction along coasts mining, farming and logging of Rainforests causes soil run off smothers coral reefs blocking sunlight that it needs to survive.

This Coca-Cola bottle, found near one of the Capone islands, Philipines still shows a slightly burned fuse and explosive sediment inside.

Fishing with explosives or cyanide-In depleted fisheries, people resort to desperate tactics to catch the fish that remain—one of those is dynamite. The explosions send dead fish to the surface and destroy living reefs.

Water Pollution-Petroleum products and chemicals are lethal to Coral Reefs. Raw sewage is dumped into the sea, bringing an overload of nutrients; algae take over the reefs, blotting out the sunlight corals need to live.

Careless recreation and collection of coral-Careless boating, diving and fishing can cause damage to Coral Reefs.

Global warming-When ocean temperatures increase the coral polyps lose the symbiotic algae inside them, causing them to turn white and die. This is referred to as "bleaching". In the past year there has been an unprecedented number of "bleaching" events world wide.

Here are some links to websites for more information:

Reef Relief

Reef Check

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Here are some graphics that you can use to help spread the awareness
of why Coral Reefs need to be protected:

All graphics are copyright Wings of Love and Light and may not be used
without written permission. You may contact the webmistress at Angel of the Forest

Main image courtesy of Corey Wolfe