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Coral Reefs and Algae Coral reefs are unique ecological systems of the Earth Nature. These systems are very complicated and provide natural balance in the global ocean environment. Unfortunately, the human technological activity impacts coral reefs in the same harmful way as it impacts other ecological systems. Coral reefs are inhabited of approximately 25% of marine species. They are very valuable because of their economic attractiveness through tourism and fisheries. A recent economic estimate valued the annual net economic benefit of the worlds coral reefs at $30 billion1. The human activities like uncontrolled over fishing, sea pollution, and chaotic costal area development caused the loss of over 10% of these valuable unique ecosystems. Apart from direct impact on the sea ecosystems the coral reefs are exposed to such global man-caused disasters as global warming, greenhouse effect and uncontrolled pollution of the natural environment. The pollution of the sea harms the coral reefs greatly.
The coral reefs are unique structures because they are the symbioses of biological and geological components. Corals and calcareous algae construct the reefs of the limestone skeleton which is a geological structure. This symbiotic relationship benefits both partners: the coral obtains food from the plant photosynthesis, the microalgae benefit from nutrients released as waste by the coral, and the two have complementary effects on carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange that is believed to account for the rapid rates of skeletal growth2. One of the most harmful impacts on the corals is known as bleaching. The water warming causes the process when corals expel the algal cells that are normally within the tissue. These algae give the coral its brownish color. There may be a number of causes for coral bleaching. The most common cause of the coral bleaching is associated with the high sea temperature which in its turn is caused by the global warming.
Such global warming is a direct consequence of the human technological activity. The global temperature increases because of the greenhouse gas emissions3. Bleached coral could be recovered if the stressful conditions are not prolonged. The global warming caused by the greenhouse gas effect is extremely harmful for corals. The emissions of carbon dioxide caused by the technological activity prevent the infrared radiation from penetrating into atmosphere. The Persian/Arabian Gulf is a semi-enclosed, sub-tropical marginal sea surrounded by very dry land. The Gulf is very shallow sea (average depth 35m), and was dry 10 thousand years ago during the last ice age.
The Gulf is linked to the Gulf of Oman and the wider Indian Ocean by the narrow Straits of Hormuz which limits water exchanges. Freshwater inputs come from a few rivers that flow from Iran and Iraq, the largest of which is the Tigris/Euphrates, but these contribute little compared to the extreme evaporation rates in the Gulf. The combination of these conditions, particularly the arid desert climate and extensive areas of shallow water, cause extreme conditions for coral growth, with variations in salinity (28 to 60ppt; normal sea water around 35ppt) and temperatures (10 to 40C) being among the most extreme in the world. Thus coral reefs and communities in the Gulf generally have relatively low biodiversity, and the ability of corals to survive is probably due to their strong genetic adaptability4. The coral reefs of the Gulf are exposed to the harmful influence of the greenhouse effect. There are a lot of other anthropogenic threats to coral riffs. The Gulf region is the biggest oil extracting region in the world that is why the petrochemical enterprises and oil refineries are at the coast to use seawater for the cooling purposes.
The discharge of the cooling water adds to the natural heat stress during the summer season thus causing the addition coral bleaching5. The situation worsens by the fact that the Gulf countries pay more attention to the national industrial development than to the environmental protection. The massive coral bleaching occurred in the Persian Gulf in 1996 1998. The reef mortality took place due to increase of the water temperature in the Gulf. The shallow fringing reefs in the Arabian Gulf are impacted by high sediment, and large fluctuations in temperature and salinity, hence they are not well developed. Also they have been severely impacted by coral bleaching in recent years.
There is little active coral-reef management in the region, however, there are projects to increase management capacity and conserve some valuable reefs. An imminent threat to these reef systems is oil pollution from increasing tanker traffic6. The coral bleaching became the real disaster all over the world. The mass bleaching has occurred since the early 80s. The natural paradise of the Caribbean hides its real disaster of the coral destruction in the region. Human activity is responsible for the forthcoming coral collapse in the region.
This collapse may come true if people do not reconsider their attitude towards natural treasures called corals. The disaster in Caribbean is a considerable part of the global catastrophe cause by the man made factors, one of the most destructive of which is the global warming due to the uncontrolled emissions of CO2. Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor of The Independent compares the catastrophe of coral reefs with that of the rainforests of Amazon which disappeared because of the careless attitude of the man towards the nature7. According to scientists there are a number of reasons of the coral reefs decline in The Caribbean, they are same as anywhere in the world, i.e. global warming caused by the greenhouse effect resulting in coral bleaching, sea pollution and others. One of the most devastating reasons for the coral reef collapse in Caribbean is uncontrolled over fishing.
Recent assessments have suggested that 11 per cent of the historical world-wide extent of coral reefs has been lost, with a further 16 per cent severely damaged, but until now there has not been an exercise in quantifying the loss in fine detail across an area as vast as the Caribbean8. The Caribbean coral reefs compared with those of Persian Gulf have been less impacted by the human activity. The difference is explained by various factors. First of all the Caribbean countries are more engaged in the tourism than the countries of the Persian Gulf. The countries of the Persian Gulf are more industrial oriented than those of Caribbean. This explains that the impact of the global warming is observed in a greater measure in the Gulf that in Caribbean.
The industrial enterprises, oil refineries are situated along the costal line to acquire water for the cooling industrial purposes. This contributes to the total warming effect. The industrialized Gulf Area produces more waist water which pollutes the sea and hazards the reefs. The tourism orientation of the Caribbean countries explains greater concern for the coral reefs in the region than in the Persian Gulf. In Caribbean countries people are becoming more aware of the ecological and socioeconomic values of reefs, and conservation and sustainable management efforts are increasing. In the Gulf countries the conservation of reefs is not the subject of the great concern. Some reefs in The Caribbean region are in excellent condition, namely those around Belize.
The humanity is facing a difficult choice now. We may reconsider our attitude towards the nature in general and to the coral reefs in particular and try to rescue the unique treasure given to us by the Nature or we may keep treating the Nature and the coral reefs in particular carelessly and loose the coral reefs given to us. The threat is more than real because the coral reefs issue resembles the rainforest issue too much. The humanity has lost a considerable part of the South American rainforests mainly because of its carelessness. Bibliography Robert W. Buddemeier, Joan A. Kleypas, Richard B. Aronson Coral reefs & Global climate change Potential Contributions of Climate Change to Stresses on Coral Reef Ecosystems; February 2004, available at http://www.pewclimate.org/docUploads/Coral_Reefs.p df, retrieved 12.04.2005 A Global Information System on coral Reefs, available at http://www.reefbase.org/threats/thr_bleaching.asp, retrieved 12.04.2005 Simon Wilson, Seyed Mohammad Reza Fatemi, Mohammad Reza Shokri and Michel Claereboudt, STATUS OF CORAL REEFS OF THE PERSIAN/ARABIAN GULF AND ARABIAN SEA REGION, available at http://www.reefbase.org/pdf/scr2002-03.pdf, retrieved 12.04.2005 Clive Wilkinson, Status Of The World's Coral Reefs - Executive Summary, available at http://www.usp.ac.fj/marine/gcrmn/gcrmn/exsummary. htm#Status of Middle East Coral Reefs, retrieved 12.04.2005 The Australian Institute of Marine Science, Status of the Worlds Coral Reefs, available at http://www.aims.gov.au/pages/research/reefs/wcr-st atus/wcr-02.html, retrieved 12.04.2005 Rainforests of the Sea Ravaged: Over fishing and Pollution Kill 80% of Coral on Caribbean Reefs, The Independent, 18th July 2003, available at http://www.eurocbc.org/page2.html, retrieved 12.04.2005 Seaman, William, Jr.
Translating science for coastal decision making. In Flsgp, "Coastal Zone '87," Seattle, Washington, May 26-29, 1987 Bernart, Matthew W. & William H. Gerwick. Eicosanoids from the tropical red alga Murrayella periclados. In Oresu, "Phytochemistry," 36(5):1233-1240, 1994 Baird, AH; Marshall, PA; 1998 "Mass bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef " CORAL REEFS; VOL 17; NUMBER 4; Freney, R.; Kelly, M.S., 1997: Reviving reefs. Audubon March-April Baird, AH; Marshall, PA; 1998 "Mass bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef " CORAL REEFS; VOL 17; NUMBER 4; The Enchanted Braid: Coming to Terms with Nature on the Coral Reef John Wiley & Sons WHAT IS NATURAL? CORAL REEF CRISIS, by J. Sapp.
1999. 275 pp, Oxford University Press, ISBN: 019-512364-6 HARMFUL ALGAE, edited by B. Reguera, J. Blanco, M.L. Fernandez and T. Wyatt.
1998. 635 pp, Instituto Espanol de Oceanografia Citation Robert W. Buddemeier, Joan A. Kleypas, Richard B. Aronson Ibid A Global Information System on coral Reefs Simon Wilson, Seyed Mohammad Reza Fatemi, Mohammad Reza Shokri and Michel Claereboudt Ibid The Australian Institute of Marine Science Michael McCarthy Ibid..
Research essay sample on Coral Reefs And Algae