“Coral Reefs Saved My Life”

Written by Matt Barrett on . Posted in Act, Learn

Two months ago, we blogged about a new report called “Reefs at Risk Revisited,” which found that about 75 percent of corals are threatened worldwide due to a combination of local impacts (like overfishing) and global impacts (such as rising ocean temperatures caused by carbon pollution and leading to mass coral bleaching).

During the release of the report, Dr. Mark Spalding, a senior marine scientist at The Nature Conservancy and a lead author of the report, explained that coral reefs keep our food supplies stable, act as a magnet for tourism dollars and also produce life-saving compounds found in medicines for cancer, heart disease and HIV.

“When we secure the reefs, we safeguard human futures, too,” Dr. Spalding said.

There is no better example of his comment than the video above.

The 3-minute piece tells the story of Arden O’Conner, a cancer survivor from Boston, Massachusetts, who says, “coral reefs saved my life.”

The video really hit home for me, demonstrating the incredible value of the coral reefs to not only ocean life (corals are home to 25 percent of all marine species) but also human life (helping provide essential ingredients for the medicines that helped O’Conner beat cancer).

This video also makes it all the harder to hear that the world’s corals are in dire straights.

The Reefs at Risk report found that by 2030, approximately half of the world’s corals will be susceptible to extreme bleaching events due to warmer ocean temperatures caused by continued carbon pollution. By 2050, that percentage is expected to jump to 95 percent.

The report explained that more extreme coral bleaching events are capable of killing corals outright while less extreme bleaching events leave corals weakened, vulnerable to disease and less capable of healthy reproduction.

To make matters worse, high levels of carbon pollution are also making the ocean more acidic, which will make it increasingly more difficult for corals to have normal, healthy growth.

The Nature Conservancy is already working to help corals adapt to these dramatically changing conditions and become more resilient in the face of these changes. We’re training and educating coral reef managers in more than 30 countries, we’re helping to design and grow more resilient reefs, and we’re creating protected areas that benefit the reefs while supporting local communities.

There are also things you can do to help protect coral reefs. The Reefs at Risk report provides a number of such activities, including:

If you live near coral reefs:

- Follow local laws and regulations designed to protect reefs and reef species
- If you fish, do it sustainably, avoiding rare species, young species, and breeding animals
- Avoid causing physical damage to reefs with boat anchors or by trampling on reefs
- Dive and snorkel carefully to avoid physical contact and damage to reefs
- Minimize household waste that may reach the ocean
- Work with others in your area to establish stronger conservation measures for your local corals, participate in planning and development discussions in your community and supporting organizations that take care of the reefs
- Tell your political representatives why protecting coral reefs is important

If you don’t live near coral reefs, there are still many things you can do:

- Choose sustainably caught seafood and avoid buying species that are threatened
- Share your care for corals with family, friends, and peers
- Reduce your carbon footprint to participate in bringing down carbon pollution
- Help prioritize coral reefs, the environment and climate change issues with your local government and federal representatives
- Support organizations that take care of coral reefs and are fighting carbon pollution

And, finally, if you have any coral reef stories, please share them below in the comments. We would love to hear from you, whether you’ve witnessed their health suffering in recent years, or if there are any heartwarming tales you can share about efforts to improve reef health where you’ve visited or where you live.

Matt Barrett is a blogger and communications manager at The Nature Conservancy

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Planet Change is a Nature Conservancy blog site designed to share stories about actions the Conservancy and others around the world are taking to fight carbon pollution and the impacts of climate change, and to help people feel the connections between climate change and their daily lives and understand actions they can take.

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