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Look after coral reefs

These days, environmental awareness efforts are being focused on coral reef systems.

This makes sense, as the health of these fragile ecosystems can act as a 'litmus test' for the overall health of the marine environment.

Australians are lucky in that we have a 2300km stretch of coral reef running alongside tropical north QLD, as well a number of temperate water coral reefs around our eastern and western coastline.



Coral reefs are formed over thousands of years by tiny invertebrates called polyps. Each branch of coral can contain hundreds of these creatures, each asexually reproducing by means of budding.

However, coral polyps cannot exist by themselves - they have a symbiotic relationship with single-celled algae known as zooxanthelae.

These microscopic organisms exist inside the polyp itself, sharing gas exchange and nutrients for mutual benefit.

Unfortunately coral reefs are not tolerant of temperature changes and ultraviolet radiation. 

Global climate change may well affect the viability of reefs, not only from 'locally warmer water' but also through changes in ocean current patterns. Already coral bleaching, a sign of damage to the single-celled algae within the polyps, has occured from warming waters, often from a rise of little as 1oC for a period of 4 weeks.

Other concerns are that overfishing, unsustainable tourism, urban pollution runoff and the global aquarium trade are suggested to contribute to the adverse impact on reefs. These, as well as damage from the Crown of Thorns Starfish and introduced species all contribute... not a great situation...

So, what can you do about it? A bunch of things!

  • Try to avoid overuse of fertilisers; they eventually make their way to our marine environment via the waterways.
  • When boating, dont empty your wastewater and sewage into the marine environment wherever possible.
  • Be an informed customer i.e. buy aquarium fish from reputable dealers that can state where and how the fish were collected legally - especially 'Finding Nemo' clownfish!
  • SCUBA divers; dont touch the coral! Control your buoyancy and dont let your regulators, fins and computer break off coral. 
  • Report rubbish dumping - why trash your recreation area? 
  • Holiday with ecotour operators that contribute to the well-being of the reef; either through direct monetary contribution or active involvement in reef conservation. 
  • Volunteer for a reef or beachside cleanup next Clean Up Australia Day. 
  • Learn more about coral reef ecosystems!
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