Coral reefs are to our oceans as tropical rainforests are to our lands. These vast, uniquely diverse, interdependent ecosystems, are home to millions of marine species, many yet to be discovered. Ocean inhabitants and humans depend on the many resources these reefs provide in order to thrive. Unfortunately, there are several factors endangering the health and vitality of these delicate marine habitats. Recent reports say that 90% of coral reefs worldwide will be threatened with extinction by the year 2030. Until recent years, the surf industry has been silent in the world of coral reef conservation. However, with a little motivation and education, ocean lovers of all genres are becoming aware of the threats, and learning what they can do to save our disappearing reefs before it’s too late.
Why might a surfer be concerned with this global issue?
The skeletal structure of living corals is created from calcium carbonate, which becomes more acidic as it dissolves in the ocean. However, oceans also absorb CO2 from the Earth’s atmosphere to make carbonic acid in a process similar to making carbonated soda water. In today’s world, humans are emitting an extraordinary amount of CO2, which is acidifying the ocean at a rate faster than ever before. In addition to ocean acidification, climate change and rising sea water temperature are an added stressor to these already suffering ecosystems. Just a few degrees above the average is enough to shock the corals symbiotic microalgae, the essential organisms that give coral its life and color. When these organisms die, the reef structures are eaten by mollusks, fish, and others creatures. Over time, reef structures are also eroded from the perpetual motion of waves and the chemical dissolution of an acidic sea. The result, rapidly disappearing coral formations that form the world’s most famous surf breaks from Hawaii and Fiji, to Micronesia and Tahiti. No reefs equal no waves. If trends continue as they have, we will live to see a world without coral reefs within our lifetime, leaving nothing for the future generation of surfers.
What is being done to help prevent a world without coral reefs? And what we can do to help.
As the threat of dying coral reefs is becoming rapidly known within the surf industry and community, action is being taken on several levels. From large ocean conservation corporations, to famous surfers like the carbon neutral Kelly Slater, to conscious individuals like you and me, progress is being made in solving this problem. Each of us can help make a difference by the everyday choices we make and the lifestyles we live. A good start is to look at your own carbon footprint. Not only will this benefit the e
ntire environment, but it will also benefit your wallet and quality of life. It’s simple things like buying local, or growing your own produce to offset emissions from large factories and extensive transportation. Make your home eco-friendly by installing “green”, energy efficient appliances and rooftop solar panels. Look for organic material clothing options. When out shopping support business that practice and support eco-friendly operations. You can even buy a new surfboard made with 40% less lifecycle CO2 emissions.
By choosing to live an ocean inspired, eco-friendly lifestyle, we can all make a difference and take the threat of disappearing coral reefs head on. Spread the word, share your thoughts, the ocean and the future generations will thank you!