why should we care about coral reefs
05. HUMAN IMPACT ON THE REEF
Functions of Coral Reefs: Coral reefs are important for many different reasons aside from supposedly containing the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. They: help with nutrient recycling. This is why large numbers of marine species live in reefs. Other reasons why they are so important include: The Great Barrier Reef generates more than1. 5 billion dollars every year for the Australian economy, from fishing and tourism The study of coral reefs is important for providing a clear, scientifically-testable record of climatic events over the past million years or so. This includes records of recent major storms and human impacts that are recorded by the changes in coral growth patterns. Importance of healthy ecosystems: Reducing biodiversity through the extinction of species inevitably leads to the breakdown in ecosystem health and function. Healthy ecosystems are essential to provide us with: natural resources, such as foods and drugs services we depend upon, such as recycling and purification of water and air, the creation of soil, and the break-down of pollutants social, cultural and recreational activities, such as those found in our many unique National Parks, World Heritage Areas and the other special places we like to visit high species diversity. A diverse range of species provides a larger gene pool, giving natural communities survival options when environmental conditions and climates change. Species evolve over time as natural selection favours the best of these survival options. Therefore, extinction poses a greater threat to species for which there is limited diversity. Existing species need to be conserved for scientists do not know everything there is to know about all species. A species may play a crucial role in an ecosystem and if it is removed, all organisms in that community may feel the impact.
The greater the number of species and hence genetic diversity in an ecosystem, the lesser will be the impact of removing individual species. The health, management and conservation of biodiversity, is a fundamental issue facing humankind, presenting a real challenge to biology today. The major factors that affect the health and function of our Great Barrier Reef are climate change and pollution. As Queenslanders, it is important that we develop strategies to protect our reef. Next section: A new study published in the Journal of Marine Policy finds that coral reefs generate $36 billion in global tourism value per year. б used traditional and academic research combined with unique Бbig dataБ and social media uploads to map, in high resolution, the full value of coral reefs to tourism, highlighting the incentive for sustainable reef management. Over 70 countries and territories have Бmillion dollar reefsБ, or reefs that generate approximately $1 million per square kilometer. These reefs are generating jobs, and critical foreign exchange earnings for many small island states that have few alternative sources of employment and income. БThese million dollar reefs are like precious works of art. To have one in your back yard is of course a wonderful thing, but it needs to be taken care of,Б said Dr. Mark Spalding, lead author of the report and Senior Scientist at The Nature Conservancy, and Honorary Research Fellow in Zoology, University of б Cambridge. One of the key elements of the study is to differentiate the value of many in-water activities Б such as diving and glass-bottomed boat trips Б from what the authors call reef-adjacent values.
The latter are the often-overlooked benefits that coral reefs provide: calm, clear waters, stunning views, beautiful beaches and seafood. БReef dependency is far, far greater than most people imagine,Б says Dr. Spalding. The study revealed that tourism is really only concentrated on 30% of the worldБs coral reefs, with the rest being too difficult to reach. Despite this, there are valuable reefs almost everywhere, and world-wide, some 70 million trips each year can be attributed to coral reefs. The study also mapped values at a very high resolution. БWhen we showed our maps to locals, we were thrilled to see that the model was working really well,Б said Spalding. б БIn fact, the data from our high resolution maps rivaled that of detailed data from visitor surveys. Б This work recently won the World Travel and Tourism CouncilБs prestigious. It was in recognition, not only for the value of the output, but also for the innovative means through which it was developed. With national level tourism statistics as the starting point, the authors turned to big data and social media data. Data from 20 million public photos on the social media site were mined to assess the intensity of visits to specific locations and to help select only visits and spending near coral reefs. Additional public, big data like locations of underwater photographs, 4,000 dive centers, 15,000 dive sites and 125,000 hotels were used to further assess the proportion of tourism spending that can be attributed to coral reefs. БThis data is revolutionizing our view of the world,Б says Spencer Wood, Senior Scientist at the Natural Capital Project. БWe began with 20 million photographs uploaded by the public on Flickr. We mined this information to understand where people are going and we were even able to call out 9,000 underwater photographs taken around coral reefs world-wide.
Б Threats to coral reefs are many and varied and there are growing concerns about the long-term future of coral reefs in a changing climate. БOf course there are concerns, however the process is not inevitable and no-one is talking about the sudden disappearance of reefs,Б said Spalding. БEven if reefs lose some of their vigour they remain vibrant, astonishing places that will continue to attract millions of visitors. What we hope is that these same visitors can create the demand for the best possible management that, in turn, can give reefs their greatest chance of continued good health. Б Travel and tourism is arguably the worldБs largest industry, and unsustainable tourism can be a threat to reefs, with the capacity to destroy the very attraction that brought visitors in the first place. б БIf we can convince the industry to take notice, as they clearly should, our hope is they will step up and support better management of coastal ecosystems like coral reefs. ItБs a sort of enlightened self-interest,Б says Lauretta Burke, б report co-author, and Senior Associate at the World Resources Institute. б The authors hope that with this study they will be able to encourage and support the industry not only to act responsibly, but to take their case up to governments and planners to insist in the management of coral reefs to keep them in business and their staff securely employed. FOR MORE INFORMATION: The full report, along with photos and other can be can be downloaded at б and an interactive site featuring maps and data from the report can be found at. SOURCE:, May 22, 2017
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