Why Are Coral Reefs Endangered?

Jim Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0

Coral reefs are endangered due to rising global temperatures, pollution and overfishing. It is estimated that about 1/5 of all coral reefs on the planet have been destroyed. The remaining ones could potentially vanish by 2050.

Global warming is such an issue for coral reefs that in 2005 it was estimated that 50 percent of the coral reefs in Florida and almost 90 percent of the ones in the U.S. Virgin Islands died after suffering through weeks of elevated water temperatures. The rising temperatures make the water acidic for the reef, causing the reef to be more susceptible to disease and damage.

Pollution can cause the reef to sustain damage and suffocate. The trash and sediment that is caused by human pollution can collect around the reef, preventing it from getting the nutrients it needs to survive. Simple things, such as used fishing line in the water, can tangle in the coral reef causing lesions and death to the coral.

To combat these issues, the Coral Restoration Foundation is working to rebuild coral reefs that have been damaged or destroyed. The foundation has underwater nurseries where young coral is allowed to mature for at least one year before being transplanted onto existing coral reefs.