Coral reef ecosystems cover only less than one percent of the world’s ocean area, yet they are home to about 25 percent of all marine species. Furthermore, the ecosystem services they provide annually—shoreline protection, fisheries, and tourism—reaches roughly $375 billion.
Coral reef destruction
Sixteen percent of corals died in the first global bleaching event that occurred in 1998. The setback spiralled dramatically between 2015 and 2016—an extended El Nino triggered the world’s most widespread bleaching ever. The third global bleaching event, unfortunately, still continues today even after El Nino ended.
Villains of the reefs
Even the slightest human touch can slaughter an entire colony of corals. Oils and other chemicals from our skin can disturb the protective mucous membrane that shields them from diseases. Scientists also pointed out that main factors in coral reef decline such as pollution, climate change, and reef infestations must be given a solution.
New hope: Mass coral spawning
About 30 years ago, the phenomenon of “sex on the reef—the mass spawning of corals,” was discovered. This discovery is the foundation of a project that may successfully re-establish the population of corals. This project aims to accelerate the formation of new coral colonies. It is now being done in small areas in the Great Barrier Reef. The process involves attaching coral larvae directly on the reef (breeding and application of coral larvae) in the hope that they grow. This method, also called coral gardening, gives new hope in combating the widespread destruction of the coral reef ecosystems.