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Why You Should Care That Coral Reefs Are Dying

Other than Finding Nemo.

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Earlier this week I got the chance to see Chasing Coral — which is out now in select theaters and on Netflix as of today — and it left me shocked, unsettled, and upset about the current status of our oceans.

Netflix / Via youtube.com

Before you even think it, I'd like to take this opportunity to say that I'm a HUGE nature nerd. But you know what? It takes nature dweebs like me to alert you all about things like this!

You see, our beautiful coral reefs are dying at an alarming rate due to coral bleaching (aka what happens when the ocean's temperature rises to the point that it kills the coral).

Courtesy of Netflix

When this happens the animal inside of coral dies and leaves behind a white skeleton — so the image you're looking at above, for example, is basically a coral graveyard. But more on that later.

To start, 25% of all known marine life in the ocean depend on coral reefs.

Georgette Douwma / Getty Images

Fun Ocean Fact: The National Ocean Service suggests that we've only explored a mere FIVE PERCENT of the oceans on Earth, so it's possible that many other forms of life in the ocean depend on the coral ecosystem, too.

Coral reefs are home to many different types of fish, sharks, turtles, and other beloved marine life — many of whom live and depend upon coral reefs to survive.

Ultramarinfoto / Getty Images

I never knew how fish and coral have a symbiotic relationship, and that fish actually make their homes inside of them. And just listen to this chain reaction that stems from the fish/coral connection, per The Guardian:

When the coral dies, the entire ecosystem around it transforms. Fish that feed on the coral, use it as shelter, or nibble on the algae that grows among it die or move away. The bigger fish that feed on those fish disappear too. But the cascading effects don’t stop there. Birds that eat fish lose their energy source, and island plants that thrive on bird droppings can be depleted. And, of course, people who rely on reefs for food, income or shelter from waves – some half a billion people worldwide – lose their vital resource.

Or that reefs are basically underwater cities of sorts; a giant network different of all types of coral and sea life living their lives together in harmony.

BBC / Via bbc.co.uk

I could stare at this GIF of everyone eating, sleeping, breathing, and commuting in the same coral "city" for hours.

Oh, and coral is an actual LIVING THING.

Cinoby / Getty Images

I don't know why I'd always assumed it was some kind of dormant rock, but coral is very much alive. They're so alive that they're some of the oldest beings on this earth at over 25 million years old!

I had no clue that Coral reefs are a natural line of defense when it comes to protecting the mainlands from damaging waves.

Dave Fleetham / Getty Images

The reefs help to calm the wild waters heading towards land and also help protect against coastal erosion. Shorelines everywhere thank you, coral!

If you don't care about any of that, do you care about money? Reefs contribute to many local economies through tourism, and without them these shoreline and beach towns will lose a main source of their revenue.

Yiming Chen / Getty Images

Fishing trips! Diving! Hotels! Restaurants! Fish to eat! Places to get your hair beaded or braided by the beach! All of these income sources come back to the reefs.

And get this: currently, 93% of heat trapped in the atmosphere is absorbed by our friend the ocean.

NASA / nasa.gov / Via gizmodo.in

If it didn't, the Earth's regular temperature would go from it's normal average of about 58 degrees to over 122 degrees. Another fun (aka frightening) ocean fact!

That's when coral bleaching happens — the temperature of the water is too hot for coral to survive — and when the coral dies, that busy "city" of aquatic life dies or is displaced.

Sirachai Arunrugstichai / Getty Images

When the water becomes too hot, corals expel the algae that lives inside of them, causing their coral to turn white.

To document this rapid change in our oceans, the crew of Chasing Coral flew to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to document the changes during an anticipated coral bleaching event.

Christophe Bailhache / Via Courtesy of Netflix

They used underwater cameras to painstakingly track the progress of the coral each and every day for 40 days.

First of all, get educated! Do some research, read books, watch documentaries, and learn about how our ocean ecosystems actually work.

Georgette Douwma / Getty Images

As I stated earlier, Chasing Coral is a good place to start and is out on Netflix as of today!

Second, reduce your own impact on the world by taking a look at yourself.

giphy.com / Via rebloggy.com

There are many resources that will help you to figure out how much you or your family are personally contributing to the warming of our planet. Whether it's rethinking your commute to work, recycling, switching lightbulbs, planting trees, conserving water, lowering your meat intake — every little choice you make adds up! (Don't know where to even begin? Try this Carbon Footprint quiz!)

And finally, spread the word.

TBS / DIC Entertainment

People don't tend to notice or think about what's going on underneath sea level for the simple reason that it's just not something we have to look at often. That's where you come in — now that you know we're at risk of losing our coral reefs, help the cause by sharing your knowledge with whoever will listen (and maybe even those who won't).

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