What causes damage to our coral reefs?


During recent years damage to coral reefs has been getting increasingly worse. These corals dying will ultimately lead to a lack of home and nourishment for sea creatures which would result in them becoming extinct. The main reasons for the damage caused are; climate change, a decline in water quality, over-fishing, pollution and an unsustainable coastal development.

Firstly, the most broad cause of damage is climate change which leads to a heated ocean and causes thermal stress to the coral reefs. It is a contributing factor to coral bleaching and infectious diseases. This is all caused mainly by greenhouse gasses produced from human activities. In recent years these outbreaks are becoming more frequent as carbon dioxide absorbed from the air into the ocean has begun to reduce the calcification rates in reef building which essentially means that there is less reefs in the sea and they are getting damaged quicker and more easily.

Pollution is another way in which the coral reefs are becoming damaged as it makes them more likely to get diseases. It also negatively impacts the growth and reproduction of the reefs and causes changes to the food structure, meaning that the reef cannot work effectively. Pollution also results in poor water quality which harms the reefs as they need clear and clean water in order to survive.


A decline in water quality impacts most reefs around the world. It occurs when polluted water enters the ocean following a land based run off. The water carries sediments and nutrients. Those sediments then cover a reef, blocking it from the sunlight it needs in order to grow. Basic water quality standards are met with human health in mind however studies show that this potentially is not enough to keep corals safe.

In addition to this, fishing causes different problems in relation to the coral reefs globally and is actually one of the main causes to the damage. A study shows that “Over 55% of all reefs are threatened by overfishing or destructive fishing”. Firstly, unsustainable fishing can cause physical damage to the corals, due to the materials used, which stops them from performing properly. As well as this, a variety of different fishing equipment causes different amounts of damage to multiple different sea plants, including coral reefs. The other main way in which fishing is a problem for coral reefs is due to less fish. Coral reef fish are a significant food source all around the world which means that they are always in high demand. However, these fish usually keep the algae growing on reefs to a minimum so when there’s less fish in the sea, the reefs often become overgrown with algae which destroys them.

Moreover, unsustainable coastal development is an issue regarding the damage to coral reefs. This unplanned development is a threat to the coral reefs as well as tourist based economies. One particular study has suggested that “85% of worldwide tourism is due to coral reefs”. However, developments involving the oceans globally are damaging to the corals.


When piers, dikes, channels and airstrips are formed and constructed, they often instantly kill the corals. Moreover, these being developed can result in habit degradation which causes a lack of fish population as they have less places to live and breed. Corals cannot survive without fish so this is another way in which the corals are damaged due to unsustainable coastal development. Finally, when these attractions are being built, often there is a removal of parts of the reef or just of the environment in general which has the ability to cause sand erosion, land retreat and sedimentation which also results in harm to the corals.

Overall, there is a huge variety of different ways in which humans are destroying the coral reefs and this article has only described a few of the ways in detail. However, there is plenty of ways in which people can help to remedy the situation before it is too late and animals begin to go extinct and start disappearing.