"In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught." ~Baba Dioum
Though coral reef ecosystems are an ancient occurrence that first appeared more than 400 million years ago, the present living coral reef communities - as seen today - represent a period that is merely 5,000 years or less; with base rock and skeleton basement much older. Guam’s reefs that have been uplifted throughout its localized geologic periods may be 30 to 40 million years of age. In our oceanic world, though only .2% comprises the coral reef ecosystems, 25% of these reefs are totally lost and never to recover… and within the next 20 to 30 years another 30 to 40% may also be lost. (Spalding, 2002, Wilkinson, 2000) During the 1997-98 global bleaching events, it was assessed that live coral coverage worldwide was further reduced by 10%. (Hodgson and Liebeler, 2002).
Coral reef ecosystems are highly valued for their biological, ecological, cultural, and economic resources, as well as their visual aesthetic. Worldwide, coral reef ecosystems provide over $30 billion dollars in annual goods and services (Cesar et al. 2003) and yet cover less than one percent of the earth’s surface. Without doubt, coral reefs fascinate people because of their unparalleled beauty and biodiversity. But coral reefs are probably the most endangered marine ecosystem on earth. Nearly 500 million people depend on coral reefs for food, coastal protection, cultural items, and tourism income; probably 30 million of the poorest people depend entirely on coral reefs for food. Guam’s tourism industry also depends heavily upon the health of its fringing coral reef ecosystems. Over 70% of the Coral reefs around the world continue to decline from increasing human pressures and activities. The use of explosives or chemicals to harvest fish, anchoring damage, boat/ship grounding is relatively localized and a minor occurrence when compared to the effects caused by poor land and coastal management practices. Both agriculture and commercial developments resulting from a global growing population are releasing more sediment runoff, discharging more nutrients from outdated, poorly designed waste water treatment facilities, and dumping more chemical wastes into the sea. If occurring in the tropics, this aberrant runoff syndrome severely stresses and often outright kills off the entire nearby coral reef ecosystems. The coral reefs of Jamaica and Indonesia –Jakarta are examples of this result; many of their reefs are gone forever.[quote-symbol symbol5]Coral reefs may not be the typical ecosystem to be categorized along side the tundra or the rainforest, whereas they may indeed be the 'first blood' ecosystem problem indicator on a global scale. Once the reefs die so may the world itself afterward. ~Don Baker (Coral Reef Conservationist Advocate)