Coral reefs are diverse underwater ecosystems held together by calcium carbonate structures secreted by corals. Coral reefs are built by colonies of tiny animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups.
The following are eight (8) economic importance of coral reefs:
- Fishing ground – corals reef is home to large number of different species of fish and this makes them the the best fishing ground. For example the commercial value of US fisheries from the coral reef is over 100 million US dollars (NMFS/NOAA, 2001). In addition the annual value of reef dependent recreational fisheries probably exceed 100 million US dollars. In developing countries, coral reef contribute about one quarter of total fish catch, providing critical food resources for tens of million of people.
- Coral reefs buffers adjacent shorelines from wave action and prevent erosion , property damage and loss of life. Reefs also protect the highly productive wetlands along the coast, as well as ports and harbors and the economies they support. Globally half billion people are estimated to live within 100 kilometers of coral reef and benefit from its production and protection.
- Coral reefs are habitat for different species of fishes and marine living organisms. They provide protection and shelter for many different species of fish. Without coral reefs, these fish are left homeless with no where to live and breed.
- Coral reefs are important in controlling carbon dioxide in ocean water. Coral polyps turns carbon dioxide in the water into limestone shells , this reduce amount of carbon dioxide in water. Without corals , the amount of carbon dioxide in the water would rise dramatically and that would affect all living things on the earth.
- Coral reefs are great attraction to tourists – tourism revenue generated by coral reefs are also very significant; for example in US , according to key west chamber of commerce, tourist visiting florida keys generate at least 3 billion US dollar annually while Australia Great Barrier reef generate over 1 billion US dollar annually. Sustainably manged coral reef based tourism can also provide significant alternative or addition income sources to poorest coastal communities in developing countries.
- Due to its vast biodiversity coral reef is major source of medical advancement. Already coral reef organism are being used in the research on treatments of diseases like cancer and HIV. Just as with tropical rain forest, we may continue to find answers to medical problems in coral reefs so long as we can keep them healthy.
- Coral reefs contain vast biodiversity – estimates vary immensely, but coral reef may be the most diverse ecosystem on earth; the are likely to at least to rival terrestrial rain forest. This vast biodiversity is important because it provide nursery habitat to edible fish species which would be difficult and expensive to reproduce artificially.
- Coral reefs are beautiful and intrinsically fully of wonder. Nothing much compares to diving below the surface of clear water and seeing natural wonderland more intricate and complex than someone could possibly imagine.
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