Though I have never lived on an island, I am an island girlie at heart and always have been. I have never embraced the cold and snow and tend to hibernate during the winter months. My friends are particularly aware of this habit, often asking me “do you want to plan an outdoor adventure for a particular date, or will you be hibernating by then?” I love being active outdoors, but once winter hits, you will find me cozied up indoors eating comfort food wrapped in my heated blanket watching cheesy holiday movies. I know, I know, it makes no sense that I live in a landlocked state with snowy winters, but when I travel, I ensure you that I always choose a warm destination!
There are so many benefits to getting outside in the sunshine, whether it’s here in Colorado or a warm tropical destination. Sunshine can have positive effects on mental health. Sunlight exposure is essential to produce vitamin D and trigger the release of serotonin and they play a crucial role in brain function and mood regulation. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with an increased risk of depression and other mental health disorders. Serotonin helps regulate mood, appetite, and sleep, which is why I always start my day with a walk outside. It helps me wake up and start my day in a good mood!
One of my favorite things to do when I seek out an island adventure is to snorkel coral reefs. The captivating beauty and extraordinary biodiversity of coral reefs fascinates me and always keep me coming back. No matter how many times I go snorkeling or how many different places I visit, the magic is always there in the coral reefs. These vital marine ecosystems not only display vibrant colors but also provide a home for countless marine species. Though coral reefs cover less than 0.1% of the ocean, over 25% of the ocean species live in coral reefs. However, since the 1950s, coral reefs have faced unprecedented challenges due to climate change, pollution, and overfishing, threatening their existence. Most threats to coral reefs are caused by humans.
Here are some alarming facts about the decline of coral reefs:
- Up to half of the world’s coral reefs have already been lost or severely damaged and the decline continues with alarming speed.
- Coral reefs are being lost or damaged at twice the rate of rainforests.
- Scientists predict that all corals will be threatened by 2050 and that 75% will face high to critical threat levels.
- Unless we do everything to limit warming to 1.5 Celsius, we will lose 99% of the world’s coral reefs.
- If current trends continue, all coral reefs could be gone by 2070.
But there is so much we can do to slow climate change and the warming of our oceans! Even though we live many miles away from the ocean, there are various things that we can do to keep coral reefs healthy. Let’s explore the ways we can contribute to the preservation of these fragile underwater wonders:
- Buy seafood that is sustainably sourced (use gov to find coral-friendly businesses).
- Conserve water: the less water you use, the less runoff and wastewater that will go back into the ocean.
- If you don’t live near the coast, get involved in protecting your local lakes, water sources, reservoirs, etc.
- Raise awareness by spreading the importance of coral reefs and the threats we pose on them.
- Since climate change is one of the leading threats to coral reef, use energy efficient light bulbs and appliances to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Opt for renewable energy sources and minimize your reliance on fossil fuels.
- Eliminate or reduce the use of single-use plastics. Plastics can end up in the ocean, entangling marine life and releasing harmful chemicals into our ocean.
- Minimize the use of fertilizers. Overusing fertilizers on lawns harm water quality because nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from the fertilizer are washed into waterways and can eventually end up in oceans. Nutrients from excess fertilizer increases algae growth which blocks sunlight to corals – this causes coral bleaching, which can be fatal.
If you visit coral reefs:
- Wear reef-friendly sunscreen!! Chemicals from typical sunscreen will kill coral reefs and the marine life that live there. Even better, wear long sleeve shirts or rash guards to prevent sunburn to limit the need for sunscreen.
- If you snorkel, dive, swim, or boat near coral reefs, don’t touch the coral, don’t stand on it, don’t take it, and don’t anchor.
- Support eco-friendly tourism operators when planning your trip.
- Volunteer to cleanup a local beach or reef.
Protecting coral reefs requires a collective effort and everyone can make a significant impact. By raising awareness, adopting responsible practices, reducing pollution, and advocating for reef-friendly initiatives, we can become guardians of the sea. Let us commit to preserving these magnificent ecosystems, ensuring their survival and the invaluable benefits they provide to our planet. Together, we can secure a vibrant and thriving future for coral reefs and the countless species that call them home.