Coral 25% of all marine life and 1 billion people depend upon coral reefs
More than 25% of all life in the Oceans depends upon coral reefs as a nursery and breeding ground, without coral reefs many species of fish and marine life, including whales would become extinct. Coral reefs are also a valuable source of fish protein for island and coastal communities and essential for the tourist industry in many countries.
Coral reefs provide a very important defence structures helping to protect coastline and islands from storm damage and erosion.
We have already lost 50% of the worlds coral reefs and the remaining 50% are dying at an accelerating rate, it is likely that within the next 10 years nearly 100% of the worlds corals will have been destroyed. The usual explanation is that this is all down to climate change, this is not true. Climate change is certainly implicated, but it is not the primary reason for the worldwide destruction of coral reefs, and if we continue to blame everything on climate change and the impossible challenge of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, then we are going to destroy the worlds coral reefs.
Coral is a symbiotic organism, the colony of polyps have an algae partner that grows inside the coral and provides the coral with oxygen and food. The symbiotic partnership is very delicate and if the coral is subjected to any pollution, then the poly will tend to discharge the coloured algae back into the water. This is called coral bleaching, and when it happens the coral goes white and becomes very sensitive to higher temperatures.
Chemicals that have been shown to be incredibly toxic to coral include Oxybenzone which is found in most sunscreen and cosmetics. Oxybenzone will come off when you go swimming in the sea and it will tend to form an oil film on the surface. The oil gets sucked onto other particles like micro plastic, where the chemical gets concentrated on the plastic particles like a sponge. The concentration of chemicals such as oxybenzone may increase by as much as 1 million times on a particle of plastic.
Coral feed on small particles, they grab the micro plastic containing the toxins, the coral has now been injected with a fatal dose of chemicals. The reason why the chemicals are so toxic is because they react with sunlight. Most sunscreens do not actually block out all the UV light, what they do is change the light wavelength from a short UV light to a longer less energetic wavelength. Because short wavelength UV light has more energy than longer wavelength light, this energy must be released and by this process free radicals are generated. It is the action of the free radicals that starts to oxidise the algae and the coral from the inside. The same reactions take place on the surface of your skin, while the sunscreen may be relatively non toxic, the chemical reactions that take place when it is exposed to sunlight, are very toxic.
The first response is for the algae partner to be discharged out of the sick coral. The coral now becomes very sensitive to higher temperatures and disease. If the environmental conditions are not perfect then the coral will die.
You may think that it is impossible for a cosmetic to be soo toxic to the environment, however given the delivery mechanism of micro-plastic to the coral it would only take about 20,000 tonnes of Oxybenzone to kill all the corals and most all marine life in all the oceans. 20,000 tonnes of Oxybenzone added to the Oceans all at the one time would kill the planet. The world actually makes and discharges over 17,000 tonnes of Oxybenzone every year, the only reason why the oceans are still alive is that it is discharged over the course of one year. However we have still succeeded in killing half the worlds coral reefs and the remaining half will be dead in 10 years unless we stop the pollution.
What are the implications of losing all the coral reefs? well perhaps 1 billion people will be on the move because of loss of habitat, income and food. Climate change will be the least of our problems.
Throw the Oceans and Life Line and stop using toxic cosmetics, because in 10 years it will be too late to save the coral reefs, the oceans and humanity.