SCI 200 Strayer University Environmental Science & Ocean Life Discussion: Environmental Science Answers 2021

SCI 200 Strayer University Environmental Science & Ocean Life Discussion: Environmental Science Answers 2021

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SCI 200 Strayer University Environmental Science & Ocean Life Discussion

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Coral Reefs Template
Use this template as a guide to writing your coral reefs paper. Be sure to include all of the
headings and answer all of the questions underneath each heading.
Why We Need Coral Reefs
Threats to Coral Reefs
For each threat, what is one strategy to protect the coral reefs (identify a total of
three strategies, one for each threat)?
For each selected strategy, why is this the best strategy to protect coral reefs from
the particular threat?
What are the benefits of each strategy?
What are the costs of implementing each strategy?
Voluntary or Mandated Protection Strategies
Based on your research, what are the three major threats to coral reefs?
Why did you select these three threats as major instead of other threats?
Why are the major threats you selected occurring?
Strategies for Protecting Coral Reefs
Based on your research, what have you learned about the benefits of coral reefs to
ocean life, humans, and the overall environment?
What are the similarities and differences between the benefits of each of these
For each strategy, should it be voluntary or mandated by local, federal, or
international law and policies?
How did you make the voluntary versus mandated determination?
Enforcement Methods
How can each strategy be enforced by local, federal, or international authorities?
What are the challenges associated with enforcing each strategy?
How can these challenges be minimized or eliminated?
The Importance of Coral Reefs to the Environment
John Doe
SCI200 ? Environmental Science
Strayer University
January 1, 2020
The Importance of Coral Reefs to the Environment
Why We Need Coral Reefs
Coral reefs create habitats that are arguably some of the most diverse on the planet. They
help to protect our coastlines from the effects of storm surges due to tropical storms, they
provide shelter and habitat for many different kinds of marine organisms, they are a source of
nutrients for the ecological food chain, they act as a sink taking in carbon dioxide and storing it
in their structures and they recycle nutrients as well (Queensland Museum, 1).
Threats to Coral Reefs
As important as these structures are, however, they face a variety of threats, both
manmade and natural. Three that I will discuss in this paper include sedimentation from human
coastal development, storm water runoff, agriculture and industry; the phenomenon of coral
bleaching due to warming oceans and a change in the pH of the water; and micro-plastics from
improper disposal and storm water runoff (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2). I
will follow these with sections on strategies for protecting corals, whether they should be
voluntary or mandated and a brief discussion of enforcement methods.
One large threat that corals face is the literal covering of their structures by sediment.
Called sedimentation, this process is often related to anthropogenic, or man-made, processes. As
we develop our coastlines, we remove the vegetation that often holds the top soil in place. This
can then wash into the ocean and collect in corals that are often found just off shore. Large river
systems also carry large amounts of sediments from the watershed. Reefs in the Caribbean are
highly susceptible to this threat as they are often low lying, close to shore and surround
populated areas (B?gin, 3).
Coral Bleaching
Coral bleaching is another threat that corals face. Climate change has led not only to an
increase in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and a warming of the atmosphere, it has
also led to an increase in ocean temperatures as well. Corals build a skeleton structure around
which they live. Indeed, healthy coral environments are often brown, green and reddish in color,
which are the living organisms. When temperatures increase beyond their capability to survive,
these organisms die off, leaving behind white structures underneath. This process is known as
coral bleaching and their death leads to a collapse of the food web and the resulting ecosystem as
well (Brown, 4).
Micro-plastic Pollution
A third threat corals face is pollution by micro-plastics. Anthropogenic trash often ends
up in the ocean and the plastics of human life will slowly break apart over time into large and
small particles that can enter the ocean ecosystem. This plastic pollution can block the sunlight
needed for photosynthesis by plants, can entangle and be ingested by animals resulting in death
or injury and can break and damage coral structures. Additionally, toxic substances can be
released that can become part of the base of the ecosystem and work its way up to larger animals
including humans that eat fish from these habitats (Reichert, 5).
Strategies for Protecting Coral Reefs
To counter the three threats I have mentioned, the literature pointed to several strategies.
For the sedimentation issue, policies to enforce the protection of natural vegetation and reduce
construction on barrier islands has been suggested (B?gin, 3). The benefit would be that more
sediment would be maintained on the land and not end up in the ocean. Costs could be high in
some areas for this, especially if new land has to be reclaimed, however, maintaining natural
vegetation that holds the soil in place can be done cheaply with laws and regulations that could
be implemented. Brown stressed the importance of fighting climate change through international
treaties and moves to reduce greenhouse gas production (4). It is difficult to nail down a cost for
this idea, as the authors point out that moving to cut greenhouse gases often costs more for
developing countries to implement than more developed. In addition, there has to be political
will on the part of the country and the population at large for any meaningful change to occur.
The most difficult of the strategies would deal with micro-plastics. We still have not found a way
to remove them from the ocean environment, though Reichert noted that there are efforts to find
ways to collect and remove them (5). However, limiting the amount of plastic pollution that
reaches our oceans is a first step. The point out that several communities in the Caribbean have
allocated several million dollars a year to trash cleanup and recycling campaigns.
Voluntary or Mandated Protection Strategies
To follow through with the strategy to fight sedimentation mentioned, a combination of
voluntary and mandated policies could be utilized. Gray notes that many local governments are
developing coastal adaptation plans that are designed to protect the environment and land loss
that include voluntary measures such as avoiding local plants or replanting areas on their own
(6). Mandatory rules and regulations enforced by law can also be drafted for new development so
that long-term conservation can be preserved. For the issue of coral bleaching, the long term
drivers of climate change have to be addressed. Brown noted that treaties between countries with
mandatory limits on greenhouse gases and money allocated towards greener energy will likely be
the only solution in the long term (4). However, short term voluntary limits on energy use and
conservation may be helpful as well. Finally, voluntary and mandated limits on plastic use,
increased use of recycling and finding new alternatives to plastic can help to limit the microplastic pollution issue in the oceans (Reichert, 5).
Enforcement Methods
As Gray points out, communities are already finding ways to have local enforcement of
land use laws aimed at reducing the destruction of local vegetation and limiting construction in
vulnerable habitats (6). State and federal laws could supplement this, especially near reef
systems that are extensive, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The challenges, as the
authors point out, are the cost involved in monitoring and enforcement, maintaining rules
through changes in administrations and monitoring the health of the ecosystem and making
changes as needed. For the issue of coral bleaching resulting from climate change, federal laws
will likely have to be implemented. Unfortunately, as we have seen recently in the United States,
different administrations have different views on the subject and can cut funding or eliminate
policies year to year. Thus, a cohesive strategy may be very difficult to implement (National
Research Council, 7). Finally, micro-plastics will take significant buy in from industry,
investment in pollution control on local, state and federal levels and significant funding to
monitor the current state of our oceans. Reef systems are often in International Waters or spread
across many countries, thus cooperation and cross-jurisdictional cooperation and enforcement is
also an issue as well. Treaties and agreements could help solve this issue, however (Reichert, 5).
1. Queensland Museum. No date. Biodiversity and the Great Barrier Reef.
2. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2018. Threats to Coral Reefs.
3. Chantale B?gin. 2016. Effects of Protection and Sediment Stress on Coral Reefs in Saint
4. B.E. Brown. 1997. Coral Bleaching: Causes and Consequences.
5. Jessica Reichert. 2017. Responses of Reef Building Corals to Microplastic Exposure.
6. Janice Gray. 2016. Trans-Jurisdictional Water Law and Governance. SCI200 Routledge
1st edition textbook available at
7. National Research Council. 2011. America?s Climate Choices.

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