I wouldn’t want to drag your spirits down, but the news isn’t good (for a change). Coral reefs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are not doing well at all, according to a new study, conducted by the United Nations. If global warming is not brought under control quickly, they will simply cry out in heat stress. If the problem is not fixed quickly, all coral reefs could be completely gone by 2050. And if you think to yourself “bouarf, it’s a shame, but it’s not going to prevent me from living, huh”. Well think again, actually. The consequences of such a loss could be disastrous, including for humans.
1. A whole bunch of marine animals will be left without habitat
Coral reefs are often referred to as “the rainforests of the oceans”. Like a tropical forest which is home to an astronomical quantity of fauna and flora, coral reefs, although they represent only 1% of the ocean floor, are home to more than a million species, including a quarter of the world’s fish. Without a barrier, the most robust will migrate to another habitat, the others will die.
2. Some land areas will disappear
Reefs, however deep they may be, protect coastlines against erosion caused by tropical storms, and prevent (or at least reduce) the risk of rising sea levels. Without a coral reef, and therefore without coastal protection, land erosion will make many areas uninhabitable.
3. The chances of dying in a natural disaster will increase
Coral reefs not only protect against erosion: they also act as a barrier against natural disasters such as storms or tsunamis. During a cyclone, for example, the barrier absorbs 70 to 90% of the wave power. In Indonesia, during the Tsunami that shook the island in 2018, it was the areas not protected by a reef that were degraded.
4. The tourism-related economy will collapse in many countries
More coral reef necessarily rhymes with the total disappearance of tourism linked to these reefs. When we know that this type of activity benefits more than 100 countries, that it contributes to more than 30% of the export earnings of more than 20 countries, and that it is, in many small islands, responsible for more than 90% of new economic development, yes… There’s something to freak out about a bit. (Source)
5. You’ll probably get a good deal of food poisoning, and you may well die of it.
A reef in poor condition can, indeed, give way to an outbreak of ciguatera, that is to say: poisoning due to the consumption of diseased reef fish. Known colloquially as “the scratch” in the South Pacific, this disease is caused by a dinoflagellate (nothing to do with a dinosaur being whipped), called “Gambierdiscus toxicus”. It is a toxic micro-algae that grows directly in damaged reefs, which is swallowed by herbivorous fish, themselves eaten by carnivorous fish, etc. The toxins of this algae are then transmitted throughout the food chain, until they contaminate humans. At best, you will experience burning sensations on contact with cold water, muscle and joint pain, headaches, fatigue, sweats and chills or itching. At worst, your pulse will slow, you’ll have heart trouble, and you can pass. Voila voila. It’s not to make you psycho, huh. I warn you, that’s all!
6. We’ll have to get used to salt water
Some low-lying islands are already facing this problem: Kiribati, 33 coral atolls located in the Pacific Ocean, are seeing their freshwater sources submerged in salt water. Do you remember when we talked about a reef to avoid rising waters? So.
7. We’re all going to have to eat vegan
And there will be no point in insulting them further, they will have nothing to do with it. The disappearance of corals, especially when combined with overfishing, will lead to a scarcity of fish and a shortage of local protein. Prepare to eat quinoa. It’s not that bad, quinoa. It’s still better than bulgur. You will see…
8. The disappearance of fish will also be an economic disaster
Besides the fact that we will have to be content with fruits and vegetables for the rest of our days, we have to think that many fishermen will have to stop their activity. A disaster, above all, for the populations of the intertropical zone, who depend mainly on fishing in the coastal zone. These places depend on coral reefs, which are very rich in fish. Now, without a reef… Bah… There won’t be much left in the nets.
9. Pharmacy shelves will appear emptier
We don’t always think about it, but coral reefs are a goldmine of pharmaceutical compounds. Among the latest discoveries: researchers at the University of Utah have identified eleutherobin (a substance with anti-cancer properties) in soft corals. If the reefs disappear, two dramatic medical consequences: certain drugs will no longer be produced, and research, particularly in cancerology, will be undermined.
10. The third installment of Nemo will be so much sadder than the first two
Already that this is not what Disney has done the most fun, there… It will be downright dep. The big dep, even.