Coral reefs ‘the rainforests of the sea’ offer the spectacular marine diversity that has attracted divers, snorkelers, and filmmakers for decades.
Alas! These awe-inspiring underwater structures are now in serious trouble. Research suggests that wastewater poses a significant risk to corals.
What are coral reefs?
Coral reefs are massive underwater structures made up of the bones of colonial marine invertebrates. Corals may be found across the world's oceans. The largest coral reefs are located in the tropics and subtropics, where the water is clear and shallow. Coral reefs make up less than 1% of the ocean's surface.
About 25% of known marine species rely on coral reefs for food, shelter and breeding. More than 4,000 species of fish, 700 types of coral, and countless of other plants and animals, call coral reefs home. Corals provide food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people around the world, support more than a quarter of all marine life, and protect communities and coastlines from natural disasters.
If urgent action is not taken, we risk losing them forever!
How wastewater is a threat to Coral reefs?
The majority of coral reefs are found in shallow water near the coast. As a result, they are particularly sensitive to the effects of human activities, both directly through the exploitation of reef resources and indirectly from human activities on land and in the coastal zone.
Wastewater contains a range of pollutants that harm coral reefs, including sediment, nutrients, pesticides, trace metals, hydrocarbons and various emerging pollutants, such as pharmaceuticals and micro-plastics.Nutrients and sediments have widespread negative impacts on coral reefs; other pollutants may be significant locally.
Furthermore, wastewater pollution renders coral reefs more vulnerable to ocean heat and acidification, reducing their climate change resistance.
Coral reefs are threatened by a variety of local factors, including:
i) Pollution that begins on land and makes its way to the shore. Pollution from land-based activities may take numerous forms and come from a variety of sources, such as:Coastal development, urban storm-water runoff, forestry, and agriculture, all contribute to sedimentation.
ii) Sedimentation has been recognized as a major stressor for coral species and their environments' survival and recovery. Corals can be suffocated by sediment deposited on reefs, preventing them from eating, developing, and reproducing.
iii) Agricultural and domestic fertilizer usage, sewage discharges (including wastewater treatment facilities and septic systems), and animal manure all provide nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus).
Because coral reefs are evolved to low nutrient levels, an overabundance of nutrients can cause algae to bloom, blocking sunlight and consuming the oxygen that corals require for respiration. This frequently leads to an imbalance that affects the entire ecosystem. Excess nutrients can also promote the growth of dangerous microbes, such as bacteria and fungus, which can harm corals.
iv) Pathogens from inadequately treated sewage, stormwater, and runoff from livestock pens. Bacteria and parasites from sewage can cause illness in corals, particularly if they are stressed by other environmental factors.
v) Toxic compounds found in industrial discharges, sunscreens, urban and agricultural runoff, mining operations, and landfill runoff, including metals, organic chemicals, and pesticides.
vi) Pesticides have the potential to interfere with coral reproduction, growth, and other physiological functions. Herbicides have the potential to harm the symbiotic algae (plants). This might jeopardize their relationship with coral and cause bleaching. Metals like mercury and lead, as well as organic pollutants like PCBs, oxybenzone, and dioxin, are thought to have an impact on coral reproduction, growth rate, eating, and defensive reactions.
vii) Trash and micro-plastics resulting from inappropriate waste disposal and stormwater runoff. Trash that makes its way into the watercan snag on corals and obstruct photosynthesis, or entangle and kill and break or damage corals. Coral, fish, sea turtles, and other reef creatures can absorb degraded plastics and micro-plastics (such as beads in soap), clogging their digestive systems and potentially introducing toxics.
What is the Bottomline?
Wastewater pollution threatens the ecosystem services that coral reefs provide people, including: shoreline protection, eco-tourism, artisanal and commercial fisheries, and medicines.
Major obstacles to managing wastewater discharges into coral reef environments include:
Poor enforcement of water quality standards; limited funding for installing or upgrading wastewater treatment systemsand poor monitoring of the effectiveness of treatment and other wastewater reduction measures, including their suitability from a marine-ecological perspective.
In order to preserve coral reefs from the harmful impact of wastewater and marine pollution, adequate wastewater treatment must be addressed.
How can Netsol Water help you in this?
Netsol Water is one of the leading water and wastewater treatment company in India offering projects and services in the field of water and wastewater treatment plant manufacturing and supplying machines which not only turns your waste water into usable water but also acts as a savior of Mother Earth and its precious resource “water”.