The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
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The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
The Mesoamerican Barrier ReefBy: Natasha Grech
FACTSThe Mesoamerican reef spans over 900 kilometersIt is home to over 65 species of stony coral and over 500 species of fishThe reef gives protection from storms and costal erosionCostal societies depend on it for economic support, such as the tourism industry and fishingIt is under extreme threatSO WHAT ARE THE SEVERE THREATS TO THE CORAL OF THE MESOAMERICAN REEF AND WHAT CAN BE DONE TO SAVE THIS GIANT HABITAT?
Global warmingGlobal Warming: an increase in the earth's average atmospheric temperature that causes corresponding changes in climate and that may result from the greenhouse effect. Dictionary.comGlobal warming also causes more severe storms and a rise in water temperatures in oceans around the worldThis can be a major threat to the Mesoamerican barrier reef because higher water temperatures cause coral bleaching
What is Coral Bleaching?Coral bleaching: Coral bleaching results when the symbiotic zooxanthellae (single-celled algae) are released from the original host coral organism due to stress -Sciencedaily.comIt is basically the loss of algae (zooxanthellae) that exists with the coral and provides it with foodWithout these essential zooxanthellae, the coral becomes a bleached or white colour because they are what provide the coral with much of their colourThis occurs when ocean temperatures rise 2 3 degrees F in a shorter amount of time, because of global warmingOnce the coral expels the zooxanthellae, it will start to die from lack of nourishment if high temperatures continue
Impacts of Coral BleachingCoral bleaching threatens all the organisms that depend on the reef:Species that use corals as a habitat and food (fish, mammoth whale shark, endangered salt water crocodile)Local communities that depend on the reef for food, income, and tourist businessesAs well as, it weakens the reef, meaning less shoreline protection from storms and erosionOther impacts of coral bleaching are; a loss of coral islands, a decline in species diversity and changes in the overall reef communities
FishingMore aggressive fishing methods such as overfishing and cyanide fishing can harm coral reefsFishermen use dynamite and inject cyanide into water because this is a simpler method of catching fish, but also severely damages coralA less obvious harmful fishing method is overfishing
OverfishingOverfishing: To much fishing resulting in the depletion of certain species in an areaThis can effect the reefs species biodiversity and ecological balanceIt causes a disruption in the natural underwater food chain. Taking one part out will effect all the other species as wellIn the Mesoamerican barrier reef, overfishing is depleting populations of lobster, conch, and finfishA possible solution for this is stricter control of fishing regulations in off-seasons and illegal fishingConservation - WWFHas worked with the Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras governments since the mid-1980s to create marine reserves, protect and preserve the Mesoamerican reef systemWWF has also implemented several public awareness campaigns Sea turtle conservation, fisheries management and marine protected areasWWF is researching the impact of climate change, altered rainfall and coral bleachingHas implemented the Mesoamerican Reefs Marine Protected Areas ProgramHelps to protect the regions resources for wildlife and local communitiesWWF collaborates with local fishermen to wipe out destructive fishing practices and implement sustainable ones
WWF The Lobster ExpeditionOne of the current conservation measures WWF is implementing is the Lobster ExpeditionThis is to prevent the overfishing of lobsters one of the most serious threats is the catch of juvenile lobsters which are illegal to catch under Honduran lawWWF and Darden Restaurants worked together to test a more environmentally friendly lobster trap that lets the juvenile lobsters escape but catch the ones used in restaurantsThey conducted an experiment of 5 different fishing boats with 7 different trap designsThe lobster trap they tested and perfected is now required for all lobster fishermen References"The Atlantic Ocean's largest coral reef." WWF. Web. 7 July 2011. . "WWF - Mesoamerican Reef - Surveying climate change impacts on Central America's coral reefs." World Wildlife Fund - Wildlife Conservation, Endangered Species Conservation. Web. 7 July 2011. "Coral Reefs: Bleaching Impacts." Reef Resilience: Building Resilience into Coral Reef Conservation. Web. 7 July 2011. "Global warming | Define Global warming at Dictionary.com." Dictionary.com | Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary.com. Web. 7 July 2011. "Coral bleaching." Science Daily: News & Articles in Science, Health, Environment & Technology. Web. 7 July 2011. "Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority :: What is Coral Bleaching." Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority :: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). Web. 7 July 2011. "Coral Reefs." Exploring the Environment. Web. 7 July 2011. "WWF - Mesoamerican Reef > The Lobster Expedition - The Lobster Expedition - Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras." World Wildlife Fund - Wildlife Conservation, Endangered Species Conservation. Web. 7 July 2011.