Threats to coral reef ecosystems

  • Unfortunately, coral reef ecosystems are severely threatened.
  • Some threats are natural, such as diseases, predators, and storms.
  • Other threats are caused by people, including pollution, sedimentation, unsustainable fishing practices, and climate change, which is raising ocean temperatures and causing ocean acidification.
  • Many of these threats can stress corals, leading to coral bleaching and possible death, while others cause physical damage to these delicate ecosystems.
  • During the 2014-2017 coral bleaching event, unusually warm waters (partially associated with a strong El Niño) affected 70% of coral reef ecosystems worldwide.
  • Some areas were hit particularly hard, like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, where hundreds of miles of coral were bleached.

Corals are able to recover from bleaching events if conditions improve before they die, though it can take many years for the ecosystems to fully heal. Scientists are also testing new ways to help coral reef ecosystems, such as growing coral in a nursery and then transplanting it to damaged areas.


Coral reef threats in India

  • Recent studies by the National Institute of Oceanography have shown that Reckless tourism is damaging Malvan’s coral reefs.
  • Similar injuries to Goa’s coral reefs are likely due to scuba diving and snorkeling and similar activities.
  • The prevalence of coral physical damage in the Marine Protected Area has increased from 4.83% in 2016 to 11.58% in 2019 with cumulated physical damage of 33.08% in the last four years.
  • The Gulf of Munnar corals usually bleach in summer if water temperature surpassed 30 degrees Celsius.
  • A coral bleaching alert report protocol developed by Spece Application Center (SAC), Ahmedabad recorded that the years 1998, 2010, and 2016 witnessed mass bleaching in the five coral reefs.
  • They observed that Andaman, Nicobar, and Gulf of Kutch regions recorded threat in 2010, while the Gulf of Mannar recorded threat in 2016.
  • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), India’s coastal and marine ecosystem along with coral reefs is under increasing threat due to overexploitation of resources.

What are the government actions to protect Coral reefs?

  • The government of India seeks to protect, sustain, augment coral reefs in the country by both regulatory and promotional measures.
  • Under Coastal Regulation zone notification, and Island Protection Zone notification, corals are sought to be protected by regulating developmental activities along the sea coast.
  • The laws that have a bearing on coral reef areas are the Indian Forest Act, 1927, the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, and the Indian Fisheries Act.
  • Integrated Coastal and Marine Area Management launched in 1998 aims at integrating the management of coastal and Marine areas has prepared model plans for the Gulf of Kutch.
  • India has also created mechanisms such as the National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA) and State Coastal Zone Management Authority for the protection of coastal and marine areas.
  • Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), India has included studies on coral reef under the Coastal Zone Studies (CZS).
  • Despite such efforts, a dedicated coral protection program is lacking in India and this is affecting the coral protection programs conducted by concerned state governments.