Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

Coral water where corals are able to

Coral Reefs are one of the world’s most ecologically diverse and beautiful environments, similar in biodiversity to rainforests found on land(Frost, “Corals and Coral Reefs”).   Despite the fact that they cover a very small percent of the ocean floor, approximately one fourth of all life in the ocean depends on the reefs, and this makes coral reefs a very important resource for humans as many commercially fished species rely on reefs to survive(Frost, “Corals and Coral Reefs”). Coral reefs produce an estimated $30 to $172 billion revenue each year (Frost, “Corals and Coral Reefs”). This information supports the fact that coral reefs are vital, not only to the well being of marine environments, but also in contributing to local and surrounding economies.  Many areas near reefs profit from tourism, seafood, storm protection and many other reefs uses such as the development of medications (Suatoni, “Coral-Dependent Nations Vulnerable to Global Change”). Since all of those uses and money were a result of the coral reef, it can be assumed that these areas would have great economic losses if reefs were degraded to the point where they could no longer provide these services. Regardless of the huge profits and beauty reefs bring to the surrounding area, the data suggests that many countries around the world still allow the local practices, and agriculture, to degrade these reefs in unsustainable ways.  Coral is a sessile animal of the phylum cnidaria and it is made up of a small fleshy polyp with a mouth and tentacles at one end allowing it to eat, while the other end is attached to the coral’s calcium carbonate skeleton(Frost, “Corals and Coral Reefs”). It is the coral skeleton that gives the physical structure to most of the reefs in the world and is what provides most of the coast’s protection from waves and storms(Frost, “Corals and Coral Reefs”).  Most shallow water corals also contain a type of photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, and this allows them to get much of their food through photosynthesis, making it important that water where corals are able to survive be clean and clear, allowing light to reach them(Frost, “Corals and Coral Reefs”). The agriculture releases many pollutants. These pollutants such as sediment, nutrients, and pesticides cloud water, and they harm corals in many other ways. This prevents coral zooxanthellae from producing enough food to sustain the coral, ultimately leading to its death. In over 60,000 areas in reefs studied by scientists, it was found that coral had lost its zooxanthellae and died, a process known as bleaching, over three times more frequently than in past years(“Scientists Examine Temperature History of Global Coral Reefs.”).  It is possible that places like the Solomon Islands, Fiji, the Hawaiian Islands, and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, all have coral reefs being seriously degraded, as a result of the agricultural activity of themselves and other nearby countries.    Solomon Islands’  Agriculture and Reef SystemThe Solomon Islands are located in the South Pacific and has some of the least damaged coral reefs in the area (Sulu et al. Coral Reefs of Solomon Islands). This however, does not mean that that the reefs are not affected by human action, only that there is much worse degradation on other nearby reefs than there is on the reefs of the Solomon Islands. This may be due largely to the fact that almost 80 percent of the population practice subsistence agriculture in small communities (Albert et al.). This could mean that although not at all completely eliminating them, fewer food crops are produced by large monocropping farmers to distribute to the public and more small farms are spread farther apart, contributing to the lower degradation of their reef.  There are still some areas that have issues with large scale farming and agriculture, mostly of plants like coconuts and palms for palm oil (Sulu et al. Coral Reefs of Solomon Islands), but only around 2% of the land is used for growing crops (“Solomon Islands Agriculture”).   Although these do cause sedimentation from runoff, when compared, logging causes much more sedimentation; in the provinces of Makira, Central, Western, Vangunu and Choisel, sedimentation and increased turbidity caused by logging is a rising threat to coral and reef health (Sulu et al. Status of Coral Reefs in the Southwest Pacific Region). It can be reasonably assumed that the more sediment suspended in water, the higher the turbidity, and the less light that can get to both corals and aquatic plants, lowering their ability to grow and survive.   The Solomon Islands’ coral reefs are affected by the agriculture of the islands around them, but data can also be interpreted to show that they like many other reefs are also heavily affected by the general agricultural pollution of the world, such as greenhouse gases, pesticides and fertilizers.   The Solomon Islands are a part of the coral triangle, a large area of Islands in the south Pacific with large amounts of coral, 85% of which are threatened by global issues such as bleaching and ocean acidification, as well as local damage caused by destructive harvesting, fishing and farming practices (Albert et al.). There was severe coral bleaching in  the Solomon Islands from 2000 to 2002 and while some areas have completely recovered and even grown, other sections of reef remain terribly damaged and show few signs of bouncing back (Sulu et al. Coral Reefs of Solomon Islands).  Nauru faced similar bleaching in 2003, with more sensitive corals and certain areas bleaching first and more bleaching from October into December, possibly caused by high surface temperatures of the sea (Sulu et al. Coral Reefs of Solomon Islands). Looking at this data, the evidence that has been gathered does support the assumption that climate change is a serious threat, especially in areas with fragile coral systems that could be badly degraded from bleaching.  


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