World Reef Awareness Day: how to save them?

World Reef Awareness Day: how to save them?
Fecha de publicación: 
2 June 2023
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The World Reef Awareness Day is celebrated every June 1st. The goal is to promoting awareness of the risks reefs face and encourage the commitment of the different social players to their preservation.

Reefs are formations of marine invertebrates. They are located especially in tropical, warm and shallow waters, less than 50 meters under the sea, as they require solar energy for their vitality. They are formed from large coral colonies, which, in turn, are made up of millions of polyps, animals that convert seawater calcium into limestone.

In the literature on the subject, reefs are also known as tropical rainforests of the sea, because they are home to a wide variety of marine flora and fauna: fish, lobsters, crabs, octopus, starfish, and other invertebrates. However, it is necessary to clarify that plants are not the biological origin of reefs, but the aforementioned polyps, that is, animals.

In addition to their landscape value, they are of great importance in nature. By removing and recycling carbon dioxide, they help reverse the greenhouse effect. A quarter of the world's marine species find their habitat in them. They protect islands and continents from waves and storms, and consequently favor the survival of coastal species.

It is estimated that some 4,000 species of fish depend on reefs at some point in their existence. However, their current situation is alarming. According to data from the United Nations Environment Program, by 2050 living reefs could be lost.

Contrary to what many people believe, the fundamental biological component of reefs is not plants, but polyps, which are animals.

Among the causes of such probability are mentioned the extraction and overexploitation of coral material; industrial pollution; the construction of infrastructures, such as ports and docks; overfishing; the channeling of residuals that flow into the sea; navigation and diving in coral areas; and the increase in temperature and acidification of seas and oceans, all consequence of global warming.

Although some scientists have suggested that reef populations could be restored in the future, through genetic engineering techniques, with variants more resistant to heat, preservation is the more viable action nowadays.

But how to save them from this trend to extinction?

Mankind could do a lot, individually and socially, to reverse the current situation of the reefs. For example, it is imperative to reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and the consumption of plastics. You should not buy souvenirs made with corals, to discourage their trade. It is recommended that diving practices be responsible, without touching or stepping on them. Besides, national authorities can direct the creation of marine protected areas.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

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