What Would Happen If All The Coral Reefs Died Off?

Coral reefs are teeming with vibrant sea life, yet they’re on the verge of extinction. In the previous 30 years, the earth has lost 50 percent of its coral. If the others leave, the effects will be disastrous. Sealife stands to lose the most. Coral reefs make up less than 1% of the ocean floor, but they are vital to the survival of a quarter of all marine species.

One of these animals, a species of sea slug, is used in the production of cancer-fighting chemicals. According to some estimations, coral reef ecosystems are 300 to 400 times more likely than land-based ecosystems to yield novel medications. But only if they make it through the next century. In addition to breakthrough medications, these reefs provide food and employment to almost half a billion people. Seafood provides over a fifth of the world’s protein, with people consuming nearly 50 pounds per year on average.

coral reefs

The US fishing industry alone provides 1.5 million employment, roughly a fourth of the US meat and poultry industry’s workforce. Billions of sea species would perish if reefs were not present. Millions of people would lose their primary food source, and economies would be severely harmed. It’s not just about the jobs, though. Coral reefs attract visitors from over 100 countries and territories throughout the world.

These visitors invest billions of dollars in diving into the ocean’s depths. Economists believe that without these attractions, coastal tourism would plummet by more than 9%, amounting to nearly 36 billion dollars. The tourist-dependent coasts likewise protected by these reefs. They operate as natural barriers, absorbing 97 percent of the force of a wave and protecting almost 200 million people. Building sea barriers for the same level of protection costs $2.5 million per mile.

Humans, on the other hand, are putting all of these things in jeopardy today. The coral stressed by rising ocean temperatures and pollutants. Which can kill entire coral ecosystems in a matter of months. In 2005, a severe bleaching event killed half of the coral in the US Caribbean.

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