In today’s Finshots, we talk about the mass coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and what would possibly happen if our coral reefs disappeared.

The Story

What is a coral reef?

If you said ‘colourful plants under the ocean’ then we’re sorry to burst your bubble. But corals are actually animals! Yup, animals. And these animals are called polyps. When these individual polyps connect with each other, they form colonies called reefs across tropical ocean waters around the globe.

And although they cover less than 1% of the ocean floor, these coral reefs house 25% of all marine creatures. You could say that they’re the rainforests of the seas.

Yeah, we know that makes it sound like they’re plants, but hey, the scientists have classified these as animals.

But anyway, the problem we’re facing right now is that these underwater homes are being destroyed, all thanks to global warming!

See, one of the organisms that live within a coral is algae. And there’s a symbiotic relationship between the two. The algae uses the sunlight to produce nutrients — a type of photosynthesis. And these nutrients serve as fodder for the corals and it gives the coral a colourful appearance. In return, the corals then emit waste products in the form of ammonium and this is nutrition for the algae. It’s a relationship that has sustained for over 200 million years!!!

But here’s the thing. When ocean waters get warmer, it throws everything out of whack. The corals get stressed and expel the algae. And without the algae, the coral loses part of its food source. The end result is that corals begin to turn into white skeletons as the vivid colours die out.

And that folks, is called coral bleaching ― an event that’s happening globally even as you read this story.

In fact, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia which is also the world’s largest coral reef has been recently hit by a mass bleaching event. It’s the seventh such instance to happen and five of them have occurred in less than the last decade!

So yes, over 1,500 species of fish and 400 species of hard corals are under threat.

But why should we care about the fish and corals?

Okay, to begin with, coral reefs are natural protectors of the environment. Hard corals for instance can reduce wave energy by 97% because of their spiky structures. And this means that they provide a natural defence against floods along nearly 70,000 km of coastline worldwide. That could protect nearly 200 million people from storm surges and waves.

Then there’s tourism.

And there’s no better example of this than the Great Barrier Reef. These picturesque undersea wonders attract at least 1.6 million visitors annually, translating into a contribution of about $6 billion to the Australian economy.

Not only that, it’s a boon to commercial fishing too.

Fish rely on coral reefs for their food and shelter. It’s the place where they breed and grow. In the US for instance, half of all federally managed fisheries rely on reefs. To put things in perspective, fisheries benefit by over $100 million annually from commercial fishing that’s dependent on reefs.

Coral reefs also benefit from having the fish around because they help clean corals, provide nutrients for their growth and keep pests in check. So it’s a great circular partnership.

But human activities including overfishing can destroy that equation. Besides, it only takes a temperature spike of 1°C above average underwater to upset corals and lead to bleaching. And since the earth could be 2°C warmer by 2050 without us preserving it, we could lose 90% of the world’s coral reefs by then.

That would destroy the livelihoods of people in over 100 countries and translate into a global economic loss of about $375 billion every year.

And this begs the question ― How do we revive our coral reefs?

Look, that’s hard to answer because reefs weren’t built overnight. Corals can take anywhere between 10,000 years up to even 30 million years to fully form into reefs. And the Great Barrier Reef is the youngest we have on our planet. It’s at least 500,000 years old.

So reviving them can be a tall order.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t protect what we already have.

Just look at the Belize Barrier Reef, the second-largest reef system and one of the most successful coral restoration projects in the world. A community-based conservation effort has been able to improve the coral coverage in the area from just 6% to 60%. All it took was a group effort from the guides, fishers and divers who have been trained to plant coral and monitor their growth.

No-take zones also helped. Think of them as areas where governments don’t allow extractive activities including fishing, hunting, logging, mining and even drilling. Belize’s government approved a plan to expand its no-take zones from just about 5% to 12% of its total waters in 2019. And that may have also been another partial trigger for its Reef’s recovery.

But there’s something else we can do to nurture our reefs too — coral farming!

Some experiments have shown that nurturing corals in man-made habitats in nurseries and then replanting them on reefs destroyed by bleaching can potentially save them. And maybe even help the reefs adapt to climate change.

So yeah, let’s hope that humankind can save the reefs because, without them, the world would be a poorer place.

Until then…

Don't forget to share this story on WhatsApp, LinkedIn and X.

📢Finshots is also on WhatsApp Channels. Click here to follow us and get your daily financial fix in just 3 minutes.

Why you MUST buy a term plan in your 20s 👇🏽

The biggest mistake you could make in your 20s is not buying term insurance early. Here's why:

1) Low premiums, forever

The same 1Cr term insurance cover will cost you far less at 25 years than at 35 years. And once these premiums are locked in, they remain the same throughout the term!

So if you’re planning on building a robust financial plan, consider buying term insurance as early as you can.

2) You might not realize that you still have dependents in your 20s

Maybe your parents are about to retire in the next few years and funding your studies didn't allow them to grow their investments— making you their sole bread earner once they age.

And although no amount of money can replace you, it sure can give that added financial support in your absence.

3) Tax saver benefit

Section 80C of the Income Tax Act helps you cut down your taxable income by the premiums paid. And what's better than saving taxes from early on in your career?

So maybe, it's time for you to buy yourself a term plan. And if you need any help on that front, just talk to our IRDAI-certified advisors at Ditto.

With Ditto, you get access to:

  • Spam-free advice guarantee
  • 100% free consultation from the industry's top insurance experts
  • 24/7 assistance when filing a claim from our support team

Speak to Ditto's advisors now, by clicking the link here.