Coral Reef Protection Effort

By Cynthia Kirk

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Environmental experts are concerned about the world's coral reefs. They say coral reefs may be in danger of disappearing in several parts of the world. Scientists believe higher water temperatures in the oceans and activities by people are to blame.

Corals are large groups of small organisms called polyps. These polyps live within a cup-like skeleton made of a substance called limestone. Corals are found in warm, tropical waters. Millions of corals grow together to form coral reefs. Coral reefs are some of the oldest natural systems in the world. The reefs support many kinds of sea life. They are important to some local and national economies. Many people visit the areas to swim underwater to see the coral reefs. And, the reefs protect coastal communities from severe storms.

The largest coral reef in the world is the Great Barrier Reef near the northeastern coast of Australia. Coral reefs are also found in waters near the Philippines, Indonesia, the Caribbean islands, the United States and South America.

In many parts of the world, coral reefs have become seriously damaged. Pollution and destructive fishing activities hurt the corals. Chemical pollution from agricultural areas can lead to coral death. Scientists are also finding serious damage from coral diseases.

Coral reefs also have been affected by whitening. Coral whitening results from a change in temperature of the water. Corals normally are many different bright colors. They survive as long as water temperatures remain at or below normal. A small increase above the normal high water temperature can kill the small plants that the corals feed on. This causes the corals to become white. Pollution and changes in salt levels also can turn corals white.

In Nineteen-Ninety-Eight, a report by the World Resources Institute found that human activity threatened almost sixty-percent of the coral reefs around the world.

Scientists now say coral reefs partly recovered last year. However, they say coral reefs are still threatened by over-fishing and climate changes in many areas. They say seventy-percent of the world's coral reefs may be gone in fifty years if current conditions continue.

In March, President Clinton announced a plan to protect at least twenty-percent of coral reefs in the United States.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English