Coral reefs are many times claimed to be the most beautiful sights in the ocean. The diversity of plants and animals that use coral reefs is such a large number that scientists have not even finished counting them. They are home to 25 percent of the world’s fish species and cover 1 percent of the world’s surface. Coral reefs are the largest biological structures that exist on this planet and some can even be seen from the moon! They are very important for three reasons: we depend on these reefs for food, they are very stable structures and act as protective barriers around islands and coasts, and they are important sources of new medicines that are being developed. Coral reefs are very important to us so they need to be used responsibly to continue their growth.
Coral reefs have many different uses and one of these is for food. Many valuable fishery species live around these reefs. Shark and different types of reef fish are intensively fished to be sold at various fish markets. A great percent of fishing takes place in coral reefs and this is a problem if coral reefs are not managed correctly. Overfishing in coral reefs has put many marine species on the “List of Threatened Species”. In 2008, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has calculated that out of all 845 reef-building coral species, 27% of them are threatened and 20% of them are near threatened. Many human activities affect coral reefs whether it is in a positive or negative way.
Reefs are very stable structures and act as protective barriers around many islands and coasts around the world. Without these reefs, islands would erode into the oceans. The largest coral reef system in the world, called the Great Barrier Reef, in Queensland, Australia is composed with over 2,900 individual reefs. It lives up to its name and acts as a protective barrier to many coastal areas that would have eroded by now if it wasn’t for the Great Barrier Reef. Many people come from all over the world to witness this reef’s strength and beauty. This reef can even be seen from the moon! Reefs protect land from large waves that can damage land and they need to be protected.
Coral Reefs are important sources of new medicines that are being developed. In Taiwan, Japan, China, and India, Coral Reef products have been traditionally used for treating various illnesses. Scientists want to go further with this and find cures for more serious diseases like cancer. At one time, a Scientist named Dr. Bottard, who was researching the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, actually injected himself with Stone-fish poison to study the paralysis caused by the poison! Thank goodness that these days, scientists don’t have to do anything crazy like that to test poison! But scientists did discover that the Cone Snail possessed immobilizing toxins called conotoxins. These toxins can mediate heart rate and contractility, as well as skeletal muscles and brain. They can also be useful in controlling potassium and sodium ion channels. Hopefully in the future, cures will be found for even the most life threatening diseases.
Coral reefs provide so much for us; it seems that our survival depends on them! Coral reefs provide us with: many different types of foods in very large quantities, protection from waves and storms that harm coastlines and islands, and they are important sources of new medicines that are being developed. They are very important to us so they need to be used responsibly to continue their growth. We need to protect these reefs if we want to protect ourselves!