Sample Biology Paper on Importance of Our Planet’s Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are among the oldest habitats in the world. They have been around for at least 230 million years. Though they take just a small proportion of the world’s ocean, coral reefs hold over a quarter of all oceans. The building of reefs is the responsibility of the tiny organism known as coral polyps. Despite the coral reefs making up a small portion of the world’s ocean, their importance is numerous, making them a crucial part of the environment that should be protected. The planet’s coral reefs have more significance to the natural environment since they provide jobs, act as natural protection, and offer recreation opportunities.

One of the coral reefs’ importance is they act as a natural protection guarding shorelines and coastal areas from the effects of large waves, storms, and hurricanes as they make landfall.  Coral reefs begin to develop as coral larvae swim free along the edges of islands and continents on the surrounding rocks and other hard surfaces. The reefs take one of three essential structures that border, barrier, or atoll. As corals grow, they expand. The most common, fringing reefs project directly from the shore into the sea and form boundaries on the island’s coastline. The reefs of the barrier still surround the coasts, but more distantly. A lagoon of open, sometimes deep water divides them from their neighboring landmass. The reef platform may form part of one or more islands, and reef gaps offer access to the central lagoon. Therefore, as the reefs grow and expand, they represent an initial line to defend against erosion and flooding through wave reduction and sand development and conservation (Elliff, and Iracem 2). As a result, these naturally occurring barriers prevent death, protect real estate, including houses, ports, and marinas, and protect against shoreline erosion by functioning much like low crested breakwaters, dissipate energy from waves, and protect the shoreline, thus acting as natural protection protecting shorelines and coastal areas from the effects of large waves, storms, and hurricanes.

Another importance of coral reefs is their economic activities, such as fishery, which improve coral reefs. Coral reefs are essential spawning, nursery, breeding, and feeding grounds for various species (Robles-Zavala and Reynoso 5). In terms of biodiversity, the number of species living on a coral reef is more significant than in any other shallow-water marine environment. It is one of the most abundant on the planet. Hence, coral reefs host more than 800 hard coral species and more than 4,000 species of fish, resulting in areas around coral reefs to be hot spots for fishers, who capture and sell the fish, thus earning a living. Approximately half of all U.S. federal fisheries rely on a portion of their life cycle on coral reefs and their associated ecosystems. The NOAA NMS estimates that U.S. coral reef fisheries have an annual commercial value of more than $100 million. Reef fishing generates more than $100 million per annum in the U.S. According to an estimation of $5.7 billion in worldwide fisheries benefits, coral reef net profit amounts to a total of $29.8 billion. In Southeast Asia alone, sustainable reef fishing is worth 2.4 billion dollars per year. The values of deep-sea corals, which themselves accommodate numerous commercially valuable species and, consequently, additional fish value, are not considered. Therefore, due to coral reefs, fishing drives, thus resulting in coastal areas’ economic growth around coral reefs.

Furthermore, coral reefs offer recreation opportunities. Due to the abundance of biodiversity, the number of species living on a coral reef is more significant than in any other shallow-water marine environment. It is one of the most abundant on the planet. This aspect makes coral reefs attract tourists either directly or indirectly. The features formed during the formation of the coral reefs such as atolls and lagoons attract tourists.  A new MOW report published in the Marine Policy Journal shows that 70 million trips per year are supported by the world’s coral reefs, which makes this reef a powerful tourism engine. In the tropical regions’ economy, reefs also form an indispensable component (Robles-Zavala and Reynoso 2). The reefs draw divers, free fans, recreational fishers, and beach lovers. People come to the reefs themselves, to swim among hordes of fish, through shimmering coral gardens. Also, tropical beach holidays are possibly made possible by a coral reef, even though one cannot snorkel and dive on a reef.  Reef tourism supports more than 100 countries, and in more than 20 nations, it contributes over 30% of export income. Therefore, the poster child for nature-oriented tourism is coral reefs since they offer recreational opportunities directly or indirectly.

Coral reefs’ contribution to the planet is numerous, but coral reefs face a threat brought by climate change despite these contributions.  Climate change makes extreme storms and mass bleaching more frequent and intense, turning some once-flourishing marine ecosystems into underwater deserts due to the growth of unhealthy coral reefs. Therefore, there is a need for changes to environmental laws to ensure the coral reefs are protected since their loss will be catastrophic for the planet and the people working and tourism-dependent in coral reefs.


Works Cited

Elliff, Carla I., and Iracema R. Silva. “Coral Reefs as the First Line of Defense: Shoreline Protection in Face of Climate Change.” Marine Environmental Research, vol. 27, 2017, pp.  148-154.

Robles-Zavala, Edgar, and Alejandra Guadalupe Chang Reynoso. “The Recreational Value of Coral Reefs In The Mexican Pacific.” Ocean & Coastal Management, vol. 157, 2018, pp. 1-8.