Corals are the architects, the providers and the supporters of generations of marine life
© Vinícius Yeung / WWF-Hong Kong
Coral reef is one of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on our planet. Despite covering less than 0.1% of the ocean, corals are incredibly vital to Earth’s ecological systems: They are the pillars on which most marine and coastal ecosystems are built, and act as habitats in which one-quarter of all marine life obtains food and support. Corals also provide a wide range of ecosystem services, such as coastal protection, fishery production, recreational benefits and tourism revenues for human beings.
Hong Kong is home to 84 species of hard corals, supporting higher coral diversity than the Caribbean Sea. These coral communities are a vital part of our marine ecosystems, playing a critical role in maintaining the health of Hong Kong waters and nurturing 25% of marine life in China. The subtropical location makes Hong Kong’s coral communities both diverse and unique. However, human activities over the years have resulted in a drastic reduction in overall coral coverage. We need to take immediate action to protect our remaining corals and begin to restore them.
Corals are very sensitive to their environment. Climate change is one of the main drivers of coral bleaching, and rising sea temperatures make corals stressed; added to this ocean acidification and more frequent storms weaken coral skeletons, making them more fragile and vulnerable. Apart from these environmental factors, human activities create further threats to corals – pollution, over-fishing, destructive fishing techniques, and irresponsible recreation. All these factors are present in Hong Kong waters, and together they damage or even kill corals.
© Yiu Wai Hong