By Haydée Rodríguez
When I tell people I live in Costa Rica, they imagine my home on the beach, facing the ocean, waves rolling in from the endless horizon. In reality, I live in a city like any other, one hour from the Pacific coast and three from the Caribbean.
Although my life hasn’t exactly been a tropical vision of paradise, I’ve been in love with the ocean since I was a girl. That love has only deepened the more I came to understand the mysteries of the sea, the services it provides and the marvelous creatures that call it home.
Of all the species that live in the sea, corals are among my favorites. Thanks to my career at AIDA, I have been able to both learn a lot about these tiny animals, and work to identify effective ways to protect them.
Many people don’t know about the incredible connection we have with corals. It’s a connection that exists even for those of us who don’t have the privilege of living by the sea.
Although at first glance they look like large rocks, corals are actually living organisms with an exoskeleton. They have a mutualistic relationship with photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae, which are responsible for their brilliant coloring. The algae use sunlight to produce food and some of the nutrients that the corals need to survive. In exchange, the corals provide the algae with a protected environment.
A group of corals forms a reef, a highly biodiverse ecosystem, widely known as the jungle of the sea. Coral reefs provide many benefits to humanity:
The bad news is that these benefits could be lost if we don’t act now to preserve coral reefs. It’s estimated that 60 percent of the world’s coral reefs could disappear by 2030. That would mean that our children may enjoy them for only a brief time, and our grandchildren may know them only from photographs in their science and history books.
Another important way of saving coral reefs is by seeking change in our countries. We must urge our governments to improve the laws protecting these sensitive creatures.
At AIDA, we have recently published A Guide to International Regulatory Best Practices for Coral Reef Protection. The document contains ideas to strengthen laws and promote the conservation of coral reefs around the world.
I invite you to share the guide with decision-makers in your country. Or if you prefer, send me ([email protected]) the contact information of people who may be interested in implementing the recommendations contained within, and I will send them the guide directly.
Corals play a more important role in our lives than many of us understand, and their future is in our hands. We must save coral reefs to ensure that our children and our grandchildren can enjoy the many benefits of these wondrous creatures.