Voyager: Is there anything we can do in San Diego to conserve coral reefs?

A: Yes! Although we in San Diego live far from coral reefs, we can still help improve their condition. The first step is educating ourselves about coral reefs and the animals that inhabit them. We can do this by reading books and surfing the Internet. It’s also important and helpful to watch movies and look at pictures of beautiful reefs from around the world or visit our local public aquarium to see a living reef display. All these activities will help us admire and appreciate the beauty of coral reefs, which are considered the ocean equivalent of tropical rain forests because of the diversity of creatures that call them home. Once we gain knowledge about them, we can share the information with our friends and family.

The second step is taking action. We should continue to recycle and keep our beaches clean by not dumping water down storm drains, which were meant to handle rain and snowmelt. We must remember that our oceans are all connected and what we do in San Diego makes a difference elsewhere. We also can reduce the impacts of climate change by learning ways to limit our greenhouse-gas emissions such as walking or biking instead of driving to our destinations. These gases trap heat in our planet and make the oceans warmer and more acidic, threatening coral reefs.

Also, make smart decisions about what you buy. Don’t purchase coral skeletons from gift shops, as these corals were likely removed alive from their reefs and killed so they could become home decorations. Purchase captive-raised animals if you have a home aquarium.

In addition, we can join organizations that help protect coral reefs, such as the Scripps Oceanographic Society, or donate to others like Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the World Wildlife Fund. Organizing a bake sale or setting up raffle prizes to raise money for a donation might be ways you can help. Coordinating a school essay or painting contest about coral reefs could get your classmates excited about doing more.

Even though we don’t live near coral reefs, San Diego residents benefit from them. In addition to enjoying them on our vacations, coral reefs have the potential to keep us healthy. Scientists are discovering new, strong chemicals from coral reef organisms that may help fight human diseases. For this reason, it’s important for us to conserve coral reefs because they may one day help us directly.

— Fernando Nosratpour, Birch Aquarium at Scripps assistant curator

Sign Up For
Explorations Now

explorations now is the free award-winning digital science magazine from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Join subscribers from around the world and keep up on our cutting-edge research.