Happy Coral Triangle Day! Held on the 9th of June every year, Coral Triangle Day is an immense celebration of our world’s epicentre of marine biodiversity – the Coral Triangle. Extensive celebrations and conservation events emerge from the six countries that fall within the Coral Triangle region, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste. From beach clean-ups to sustainable seafood feasts, many countries take time today to honor the Coral Triangle and all that it does to provide for our oceanic ecosystem.
What Is The Coral Triangle?
The Coral Triangle serves as a beautiful home to the most diverse group of sea creatures on Earth. Although it may not be as well know as other large groups of reef, like the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Triangle contains 30% of the world’s reef population. More than 75% of all known coral species are present there, in addition to 37% of the world’s coral reef fish, six of the seven known species of marine turtles, blue whales, sperm whales, dolphins and dugongs. All of these essential marine life live in perfect harmony across the six million square kilometers that the Coral Triangle spans.
Dr. Nadia Santodomingo is a coral expert at the Natural History Museum, and has spent the past three years investigating the Coral Triangle in the muddier waters of Southeast Asia, and how they compare to the coral living in clear water off the coast of Australia. “This part of the world contains the highest diversity of marine species,” explained Dr. Santodomingo. “There are more than 600 reef species, which is ten times the number in the Caribbean Sea. Scientists have been trying to understand why it’s so diverse for a very long time. Alfred Russell Wallace was working there when Darwin was alive, trying to get to the bottom of the same problem.”
Over half a billion people are dependent on coral reefs for food, income, and protection. It it, therefore, imperative for scientists to determine what exactly it is about the Coral Triangle that allows such a diverse group of marine life to thrive there. This will allow us to better protect the rest of the world’s oceans, especially the other coral reefs, which work tirelessly to protect our coastlines from storms and erosion, provide jobs for local communities, and also serve as a source of food and new medications.
Why Are Coral Reefs In Danger?
Unfortunately, as with many of Earth’s natural habitats and inhabitants, the Coral Triangle is under severe threat. There are, of course, natural threats such as powerful waves from hurricanes and cyclones, tidal emersions that leave reefs exposed in shallow waters during extended low tides, and even predation from fish, marine worms, barnacles, crabs, snails, and sea stars.
However, our essential coral reefs are also in extreme danger from human-caused threats. Pollution, sedimentation, and unsustainable fishing practices all cause damage to our reefs and global climate change, which is raising ocean temperature and causing ocean acidification, is inflicting irreversible harm. All of these threats, at the minimum, put our coral reefs under stress, which can lead to coral bleaching. Coral bleaching occurs when coral polyps release their essential symbiotic algae in response to a stress event. Without this algae, the coral loses its primary food source and is at a high risk of starvation. Though coral reefs are sometimes able to take on new algae once the stress event has passed, this recovery can take up to several months and leaves the weakened coral at risk of coral diseases.
How Can I Celebrate Coral Triangle Day?
The best part of Coral Triangle Day is that you can celebrate however you want! Take even just a few minutes today to appreciate our beautiful, incredible ecosystem and how much our coral reefs do to provide for us. Go swimming, take a walk in nature, watch your favorite ocean-themed movie, or host your own beach bonfire. You can also join a local group or organization, like a diving club or tourism association, to see what they have planned for the day, or even organize an event yourself! Celebrate however you feel is best, and share on Twitter by tagging the WWF Coral Triangle account and using #CoralTriangleDay.Whizzco