Reefs occupy less than 0.2% of the seabed. Yet they run along more than 150 000 km of coastline in more than 100 countries and territories.
By their massive formation between the surface and the first few tens of meters deep, coral reefs are a very effective for absorbing elements coming from the ocean. They absorb waves energy and contribute to environmental protection through the reduction of coastal erosion. They reduce the damage in case of storms, hurricanes, and in some way, the energy of tsunamis. In doing so, they protect both ecosystems located between the reefs and coasts, such as seagrass and lagoon for example, and human settlements located by the sea.
Their impact is so effective that the man mimics immersing concrete structures along some of our fragile coasts.
Without this protective role, some countries in atolls, such as the Maldives, Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands are literally built on coral reefs and would not exist and without the protective fringe.
2. AN Habitat
In these labyrinths of living limestone scientists estimate that over one million plant and animal species are involved and they hostreceive more than 25% of all species of marine life. It is one of the most important biodiversity hotspot on earth.
Coral reefs often host juvenile fish that live further offshore. They are the basis for the formation of other ecosystems. Indeed, the food of coral formations by the hordes of parrotfish led to the formation of very large tracts of sand and by the action of currents, leads to the formation of shoals, islands and especially in areas prone to the formation of mangroves and other coastal forests.
Mangroves are also one of the most sought after by some species of fish to come and lay their breeding juvenile ecosystems.
The surface of coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific may also be the place of habitat of human cultures that have lived there for centuries. These people can literally live on the immersed surface reefs, cultivate these soils, build their dwell from coral blocks, and even build artificial islands where families can settle.
They represent both a World Natural Heritage by the age of reefs but also a human World Heritage because of the existence of these cultures. They are our heritage and to pass on to the generations to come.
3. A FOOD RESOURCE
More than 275 million people live within 10 kilometers of coastline and within 30 kilometers of coral. One eighth of the world’s population, approximately 850 million people live within 100 kilometers of coral and are likely to reap the benefits of ecosystem services provided by coral reefs.
A large proportion of the human population live in developing countries and island nations and therefore depend to a large proportion of food taken directly from the reef waters. It is vital to preserve it from environmental pollution.
Reef animals are an important source of protein, contributing about a quarter of the fish catch average in these countries. “Well managed” reef can provide between 5 and 15 tons of fish, crustaceans, molluscs and other invertebrates per square kilometer.
4. AN ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE
Because of the income coming directly from fishing in their waters, reefs provide resources and services worth billions of dollars every year.
Millions of people around the world depend on coral reefs for food, protection and employment. These figures are even more impressive than the reefs cover less than one percent of the earth’s surface.
According to one estimate, the total annual earnings of coral reefs in the world is $29, 8 billion. Tourism and leisure activities represent $9.6 billion, coastal protection $9 billion, fisheries $5.7 billion and biodiversity $ 5.5 billion (Cesar, Burke and Pet-Soede, 2003).
Economically, the total value of Philippine reefs alone is estimated at 1.1 billion dollars per year.
5. A TOURISM WEALTH
The reefs are often essential element in the economy of tropical regions they inhabit. They attract divers in effect, freedivers, recreational fishermen and lovers of white sand beaches. More than 100 countries benefit from tourism related to reefs and it contributes more than 30 percent of export earnings in more than 20 countries.
Local economies benefit from billions of dollars from visitors to reefs with their companies exploiting reef ecosystems. Through tourist services, billions of dollars are collected.
In many small islands, more than 90 percent of new economic development is dependent on the coastal tourism.
The reef tourism, if managed in a sustainable manner that is respectful of reefs by limiting the destruction and pollution caused by that tourism, particularly in overemphasis may provide alternative or additional resources of income for poor coastal communities in developing countries.
6. A MEDICAL FUTURE
Coral reefs also contribute to the advancement of research.
Being deprived in a great measure of all possible movements, corals have developed a very effective arsenal of chemical weapons to defend themselves and to make war in the conquest of the reef area. Their weapons are so effective that it has a wide distribution area and therefore a greater number of potentially hostile species. Many of these chemical compounds have molecules that have the potential of our drug discovery.
Reef organisms are used in the treatment of diseases such as certain cancers including leukemia, HIV, cardiovascular diseases, ulcers. In addition, long coral skeleton, because of its very close similarity to our bones nature, served as material for bone grafts.
Scientists, for example, synthesized an effective anticancer agent against tumors, especially those of the ovaries, in the Caribbean species of sea squirts.
Because only an infinitesimal part of the reef organisms were sampled, analyzed and tested, the potential for new drug discovery is simply enormous.
Examples of medical applications
The research-based pharmaceutical company Bristol-Meyers has recently patented and licensed a product called eleutherobine extracted from coral Eleutherobia sp. This molecule is capable of binding to a proteinaceous material in the cellular structures called microtubules and make them extremely rigid. This process prevents cancer cells from dividing and multiplying. The product seems to work similarly to Taxol, which blocks the division of cancer cells. This revolutionary drug is used in the prevention of forms of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
A and B Sarcophytols
These extracts from the octocoral native Pacific Sarcophyton glaucum, were found to possess characteristics also anti-tumor. http://www.mic.hawaii.edu/dev_tech/biology/antitumor.html
Studies show that calcium from coral could help fight against forms of cancer, against the effects of diabetes, arthritis, Cardiac diseases, osteoporosis, eczema, Alzheimer’s disease , fibromyalgia, a high cholesterol, muscle cramps, kidney stones, gallstones, gout, indigestion, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, hiatal hernia, the hypertension, headaches and much, much more. http://www.1-coral-calcium.com/
In addition to being inherently boundless natural wealth and essential to life on our planête ecosystem, the reefs are able to provide our present and perhaps our future.