Opinion piece by Adam Farrell, BEST Marine Conservation Team
Did you know that some of Bermuda’s most valuable natural resources are hidden just out of sight? They are there, beneath the surface of our beautiful, azure waters. Those murky brown shapes seen above the water are a wonderland of vibrant colours and sea life beneath the waves.
Sadly, many of us take our reefs for granted, or even abuse and damage them to the detriment of us all. The contribution that our reefs make to our fishing industry, our economy and even our national security is significant, yet for years we have not treated them with care and offered them only limited protections.
More recently, the global community is waking up to the devastating effects of climate change, which now threatens the very existence of our reefs. Now more than ever, we need to recognise and appreciate what our reefs provide for us. We need to change old habits and give our reefs the respect — “reefspect” — they deserve.
To better understand the fragility and mortality of our reefs, and gain the “reefspect”, we should first better understand how they are formed.
In short, coral reefs are home to thousands of kinds of plants and animals, including hard corals. Hard corals are sessile marine animals that look somewhat like plants and that build reefs. Corals form colonies of tiny coral polyps that attach themselves to the seabed. As the generations pass, these polyps die and leave their calcium carbonate endoskeletons behind, upon which more coral polyps grow. This process can continue for generations and larger reefs can be many thousands of years old. Similar to ancient artefacts housed in a museum, our reefs deserve protection.
So, what do our reefs do for us?