Coral reefs teem with life, covering less than one percent of the ocean floor, but supporting about 25 percent of all marine creatures. However, threats to their existence abound, and scientists estimate that human factors—such as pollution, global warming, and sedimentation—could kill 30 percent of the existing reefs in the next 30 years. Today an increasing number of ocean regions have reported extensive coral bleaching -whitening and death of corals due to extreme temperatures-over recent months. (The NOAA Coral Reef Watch is a site where you can see current changes in the sea temperature and bleaching alert).
Coral polyps are tiny soft bellied invertebrates that are the core of this complex ecosystem. These ancient animals live on the calcium carbonate exoskeletons of their ancestors adding their own exoskeleton to the existing coral structure. These reef structures only occur in shallow areas that are reachable by sunlight. They also require a limited water temperature range, proper salinity, clarity of water movement for food and oxygen supply and a firm base for attachment. When any of these conditions are stressed like when there is a rise in water temperature or a hurricane, a process called “coral bleaching” occurs. This is when the symbiotic algae, zooanthellae is expelled from the polyp changing the coral color to white and,in turn, affects the diversity of the whole reef.
Raise your awareness regarding marine life conservation and the problematic situation of natural coral reefs through these inspiring artists!
THE MATH OF CORAL
Margaret Wertheim combines “mathematics, marine biology, handicraft and community art practice, and also responds to the environmental crisis of global warming and the escalating problem of oceanic plastic trash.” She is an internationally noted science writer and curator and her Ted Talk is relevent today concerning hyperbolic geometry as it was in 2009. The Institute for Figuring’s “Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef” project that she co-created with her twin sister Christine Wertheim is the biggest participatory art/science project in the world. They have satellite reefs that may be in your area. San Antonio recently had an exhibit at the Southwest School of Art.
Louis Masai is an amazing artist who sometimes hits the street using buildings as a canvas for his visual images and incredible skill to give “a voice to the voiceless”. He is noted for his endangered species murals. One of his projects in Shoreditch called #LONDONLOVESCORALS highlights an evolving story of the diversity of the coral reefs and also the dangers of “bleaching” if we do not protect them. The hollow heart shape in the center is the keyhole. Later the keys were painted around the world on buildings as heart-shaped corals. These keys are, Louis says, “symbolic of the need to unlock the heart of the situation by joining together and tackling the threats faced by it”– Hoping to unite people globally to take a little more action.
Jason deCaires Taylor’s site-specific and permanent underwater sculptures become living mechanisms by attracting coral growth which, in turn, can support an array of marine life providing enclosed spaces for sea creatures to breed or take refuge. A new world starts to evolve around this man-made sculpture and as Jason says” the ocean is the most incredible exhibition space an artist could ever wish for”and “lets regard our oceans as sacred”. (Taylor founded and created the world’s first underwater sculpture park, The Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park, in 2009 that resides off the west coast of Granada in the West Indies. It is listed now as one of the Top 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic.)
“WE ARE KEEPING IT WILD, ONE REEF AT A TIME”
Billy Hassell’s lithographs are being used to raise funds for Texas’ largest artificial reef project. 500 pyramids 8′ high with 10′ bases made out of concrete are being created. These structures will be a haven for marine life, fishermen, and sports divers, and are being placed later this year in a 381-acre area off Matagorda Island about six miles off Port O’Connor Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association Texas, Building Conservation Trust and TPWD are all joining forces to create this new habitat. Read the in-depth article by Shannon Tomkins in the Houston Cronicle.
HOW TO HELP
Regard our oceans as sacred. We don’t see the havoc we’re wreaking in these vast bodies of water but with this attitude we will be more apt to protect them.
Travel and volunteer abroad to Belize, Thailand, Island of Mauritius or Madagascar under a program that has core work activities such as monitoring coral reef health, protecting threatened coastal ecosystems and managing marine resources.
Heed these important actions recommended by NWF and the Nature Conservancy:
Volunteer with organizations working to clean up local waterways. The health of all waterways–rivers, lakes and bays–ultimately affects the ocean.
Slow global warming by conserving energy, which includes using energy-efficient lighting and appliances and walking, biking or using mass transportation whenever possible.
Conserve water: The less water you use, the less runoff and wastewater will pollute our oceans.
Help reduce pollution: Walk, bike or ride the bus. Fossil fuel emissions from cars and industry raise lead to ocean warming which causes mass-bleaching of corals and can lead to widespread destruction of reefs.
Use only ecological or organic fertilizers: Although you may live thousands of miles from a coral reef ecosystem, these products flow into the water system, pollute the ocean, and can harm coral reefs and marine life.
Dispose of your trash properly: Don’t leave unwanted fishing lines or nets in the water or on the beach. Any kind of litter pollutes the water and can harm the reef and the fish.
Plant a tree: Trees reduce runoff into the oceans. You will also contribute to reversing the warming of our planet and the rising temperatures of our oceans.
Practice safe and responsible diving and snorkeling: Do not touch the reef or anchor your boat on the reef. Contact with the coral will damage the delicate coral animals, and anchoring on the reef can kill it, so look for sandy bottom or use moorings if available.
Contact your government representatives: Demand they take action to protect coral reefs, stop sewage pollution of our oceans, expand marine protected areas and take steps to reverse global warming.
Learn, Give Thought, Be Inspired, Take Action………Bring Back Balance
Lotus McElfish lotusmcelfish.com
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