Wondering Why?

Why is sedimentation a threat to coral reefs?

“Sedimentation” refers to a process wherein materials that are supposedly suspended in the air or water will slowly settle and become solid over time.   The process of sedimentation usually depends on various factors including gravity and other forces that create the tendency for some materials to accumulate and settle to become solid.  In the case of coral reefs, sedimentation of soil and rocks, for example, will damage them and, therefore, is a threat to them.

Soil erosion, for example, is a process that hugely impacts its sedimentation.  Eroded soil will eventually settle beneath the sea and hit the corals which could damage their health.  There is also the threat of entirely covering the coral reef area with soil and other particles that settle on the ocean floor due to various activities near the shoreline.  Like in the case of nearby construction or mining activities, various materials will be forced to go into the water and settle in the area of the coral reefs.  Over a certain period of time, the process of sedimentation will damage the coral reef and will make the underwater environment unhealthy for the fish and other sea creatures.  Because of sedimentation, the whole coral reef area may become too polluted and damaged for the reef and fish to thrive.

The cutting of Mangrove trees and the massive removal of seaweed also further aggravates the sedimentation problem of coral reefs.  These trees and weeds basically serve as filters for materials that could be part of the sedimentation process. Without this natural filter, many materials will easily find their way to the ocean floor and become sediments that could cover the reef and thereby damage it.  The high level of sediments could also impede the growth and health of the various creatures in a reef because they literally block the amount of sunlight that passes through the water.  When there is limited sunlight, the growth and development process of sea creatures in the reef will also be hampered and thereby making the sedimentation process a big threat to coral reefs.

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