The Census of Coral reefs is an undertaking of the U.S. Census of Marine Life which surveys the biodiversity of marine coral reefs globally. It is reported that coral reefs are one of the most common living creatures on earth. One billion reef-forming units exist worldwide and are thought to encompass more than two percent of the Earth’s surface area. This makes coral reefs one of the most important systems of ecosystems due to their vital role in the sustainable reproduction of food chain animals. Since the corals are not considered to be alive when they are under the sea, their death goes unnoticed by most people.
There are many contributing factors to the decline of coral reefs. Some of these are habitat loss, external disturbances, changing climate, external toxins and external parasites. But there is also a great deal of responsibility from the people who live and work in close proximity to these wonderful creatures. A simple understanding of how biodiversity works can help to decrease the destructive forces that destroy it.
Coral reefs are classified into two main categories based on how they relate to biodiversity. These are physical and biological diversity. Physical diversity refers to species survival in relation to their environment, whereas biological diversity refers to the presence of different forms of life in the creefs that make up the reef. The best way to monitor the health of the creefs and the populations of its fauna and flora is through the coral reef fishes census.
Amongst the many benefits that come with knowing more about the state of the coral reefs is the knowledge and information it provides about the threats and risks faced by these beautiful creatures. These include information on the frequency and severity of die-off events, information about environmental stresses such as overfishing and climate change, and data on population dynamics. The unprecedented global census study has brought out the fact that coral reefs are threatened by overharvest, overgrowth of crown-of-thorns starfish, and viruses, which together threaten to wipe out entire communities. It has also revealed the alarming rates at which corals are collapsing. The rapid rate at which they are falling is believed to be connected to global warming. While there is still much to discover in terms of preserving the unique marine ecosystem, the number of lives lost due to overharvest and overgrowth of crown-of-thorns starfish has been confirmed as truly devastating.
One of the greatest discoveries has been the discovery of new species of fish that inhabit the creefs. These may also pose a significant risk to the over-all health of these delicate ecosystems. New species of fish that dwell in the creefs have been discovered from a variety of environments including the Indo Pacific, Western Central Pacific, South Pacific, and the North Pacific. In the case of the Indo Pacific, these new species were found to contain very high levels of toxic levels, which threaten the very existence of rare breeds of coral reefs. Similarly, in the case of the Western and Central Pacific, researchers have discovered new species of predatory starfish that feed upon the corals present in these creefs.
The rapid rate at which corals are vanishing is alarming. A review of recent studies indicates that the rate at which reefs are vanishing at an alarming rate is accelerating at a rate of about 11% annually. With global warming playing a large role in this phenomenon, it is imperative that people take immediate action to preserve the unique marine ecosystem. An unprecedented global census of coral reefs is necessary to assess the current state of these ecosystems. This will help individuals and organizations to take steps to prevent the extinction of these reef species.