There coastal development and irresponsible disposal of waste. Coastal

There are many
factors which have contributed to the chronic ecosystem stress of Caribbean
coral reefs, however rising populations in areas of coastal development has had
the biggest catalyst effect. To explain this I will refer to historical
population data of the CaribbeanYML1 ,
the current population is at 43,990,300 as of November 22nd 2017. In contrast
during the year 1985 the Caribbean’s population was 31,948,027, at this point there was a yearly population
growth rate of 1.42% whereas in 2017 that has decreased to 0.65%. With each
year the growth rate has declined however it still shows a positive value
meaning that population is continuing to rise. Studies show that 36 percent of Caribbean
coral reefs are positioned within 2 km of populated land and therefore are at a
high risk of experiencing problem created by coastal populations. Therefore it is evident that a
rising population will lead to enhanced levels of stress on coral reef
environments. There are four main industries that have benefited from a larger
population, these are: fishing, industrial manufacturing and resource
extraction. The following paragraph will describe and explore the environmental
effects of these industries
and coastal development.

are two likely causes for the diminishing health of coral reefs around human
settlements around the Caribbean, these are: poor management of coastal
development and irresponsible disposal of waste. Coastal development is definedYML2  as:
the human-induced change of a landscape
within sight of the coastline.
Coastal development can take many forms, some of the developments that have the
biggest environmental effects on Caribbean coral reefs are as follows:
harbours, mining industries and development created to support residential and
tourist populations. Areas which have shown intense levels of lowered
environmental quality have been harbours. These are areas which attract high
numbers of boats and commercial vehicles as harbours provide a protected and
developed area to trade, provide maintenance and refuel. These activities have
led to a coral reef damage though a number of sources; one of the largest
sources or reduced water quality is the effect of refuelling boats while on the
water which often results in leaks and spillages, allowing oil to directly
enter the surrounding water. Oil cannot
dissolve in water so forms a thick layer on top of the water. This
suffocates fish, gets caught in the feathers of marine birds stopping them
from flying and blocks light from photosynthetic aquatic plants such as
sea weeds and corals.

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Around human
settlements there are usually industries and local business which allow the
people to earn a living, a common industry located
all around the Caribbean islands is sand and limestone miningYML3 . The
materials produced from the mining are used to construct buildings and
infrastructure as well as an export income, however it is also a damaging
industry. One of the primary impacts of mining happens as a result of
uncovering large areas of previously protected limestone. When the rock is
blown apart, sulphide minerals are uncovered which dissolve naturally in water
however when exposed in large quantities it can heavily alter the pH of water
sources making it more acidic. The water in the sea needs to have a neutral pH
for marine life to live at optimal rates. Over acidic seas can damage corals
and other marine animals as the acidity of the water causes reactions to happen
with the natural calcium carbonate which is used to make up shells and
structures of most corals, when exposed to acidic water for long durations
shell’s and coral’s surfaces become pitted which reduces the strength of the
marine life’s structure. Making corals more susceptible to damages from
currents and predators. The acidic compounds of the rock usually enter the
Caribbean seas through surface runoff which enters estuaries and stream which
feed into the Caribbean Sea.


Coastal development also includes the construction of settlements to accommodate
the local residents and also the tourist population. The settlements generally
contain houses, apartments and other convenience building to cater for locals
and tourists. The buildings are commonly located along the beaches of the
Caribbean’s idyllic coastline.  The
construction of hotels and apartments for tourist is having a severe effect on
the environmental quality of the coastline. Local building will be built with
the materials mined and quarried from the local industry, buildings will be
made under strict regulations however this will not involve control of damage
cause in the process of building. One of the most common sources of pollution
off building sites is runoff from construction site, this causes sedimentation
of water as well as pollution of ground and water. Sedimentation has also be
vastly increased as an indirect result of construction, land dredging and
reclamation is commonplace in this industry. Land reclamation is the gaining of
land from the sea, wetlands or other water
bodies. Companies acquire the land from private owners and governments, then
the land is built up with natural material and drained to make useable land.
However during this process often involves the destruction of habitats where
mangroves and seagrasses are located. These organisms play a crucial role in
water filtration; sediment and nutrients can be trapped in the roots of
mangroves and seagrasses which contains sediment in vegetated areas rather than
the sediment travelling around with the current. Increased sediment in
coastal waters reduces the translucence, meaning the amount of light reaching
the corals is reduced as the light struggles to reach the seabed past all the
sediment. This process effects the coral reefs as less light means a lowered
rate of photosynthesis of coral’s symbiotic algae, which are responsible for
the production of glycose for plant growth and repair.

Discharge of untreated sewage into coastal waters is
having a major impact on the local water quality of Caribbean regions, to put
this in perspective it’s estimated that only 20% general sewage generated from
Caribbean settlements is released with suitable treatment, this means that
every year coastal waters are being polluted by 80% of peoples untreated
sewage. This lack of management has had a substantial effect on coral
environments; this is because sewage is full of nutrients which should not
naturally be entering the coastal waters in such great quantities. Common
sources of sewage are from industrial and domestic wastewater, faeces or urine. These substances have common
components such as Phosphorus, nitrogen, pathogens and bacteria. Once entered
into the warm waters of the Caribbean plants such as algae often begin to
thrive, living off the added nutrients in the water. If the water is kept
untreated algae populations will continue to increase causing large colonies to
form called algae blooms. The corals depend on algae in small quantities for
survival however when population’s rise forming algae blooms, water becomes
less translucent so less light can reach the seabed where corals are located,
this leads to less photosynthesis occurring so less oxygen enters the water.
This lack oxygen not only affects corals but a wider variety of species from
marine animals to seagrasses who all require oxygenated water to survive. When
left, these environments can become toxic due to the algae blooms leading to
wide expanses of the Caribbean dying. Another contributor to the growing Caribbean
dead zone is sourced from the surface runoff of chemicals from roads and
man-made paths. A common substance found in Caribbean waters in close proximity
from roads is motor oil, as cars and other vehicles leak motor oil onto the
roads, this enters the marine environment through direct runoff or as the
result of precipitation removing the motor oil from roads and then running off.
As mentioned previously, the imbalance of artificial chemicals in waters often
leads to exponential algae growth and in some severe cases suffocation of plant
life such as corals; Suffocation takes place when corals become covered with layers
of oil and sediment, causing the cell’s stomata to become blocked therefore
inhibiting gas exchange and photosynthesis, leading to coral cell damage.



Section 2

There are many ways humans are causing damage to coral reefs
which are not just confined to land based activities, there are also a number
of marine based sources of threats. These sources of threats all revolve around
local and global industries, such as local marine agriculture and the
widespread tourism industry. The tourist industry in the Caribbean in one of
the most common and also profitable industries, the industry takes many forms,
some of which are beneficial to the environment and others which are not. An
example of a damaging tourist industry is luxury cruise business. The primary
damages the cruise ships bring is through diver and anchor damage of this huge
ships. For example just a solitary anchor for a cruise ship can weigh up to 4.5
tonnesYML4 , when lowered this can have a substantial
effect on the seabed and low growing species. Damage is caused when the anchor
scrapes along the seabed, causing corals to be dismantled, movement of rocks
which disturbs small specie’s environments and also direct damage to species
such as shellfish over areas of up to 200 square meters. These damages are
intensified with increased mass of anchors, therefore cruise ships are having a
growing impact on lowering the success of coral reefs as they cause disruptions
to growth and sometimes complete destructions of areas.

The cruise ships also contribute to pollution of an area, the
ships have two main sources of waste: bilge water and garbage. Firstly a cruise
ship can produce roughly 10,000 litres of oily bilge water per day (water that
flows through the front of the ship’s hull which mixes with dirt and oil). When
the water flows through the hull it is they returned back to the ocean with
added compounds of oil and other chemicals, as mention previously when such
chemicals enter the water they greatly increase the chance of algal blooms,
which block light therefore contributing to coal bleaching. The other source of
pollution is through garbage; to put into perspective how much of a problem
this is, an average Caribbean cruise ship can hold up to a maximum of 4,370 people.
With this amount of people an average of 1 tonne of garbage is produced per
day, some of this garbage is stored on the ship, however most needs to be
disposed of when the ship docks at its different stopping locations, an example
of a region that has been severely affected by such garbage is in in Roatan Island
in Honduras. The area of Roatan Marine Park is accredited as an area of
outstanding natural beauty, however 15km offshore is a patch of floating
garbage with a perimeter of over a kilometre. The majority of the garbage is
plastics, it was also observed that the majority of the floating pollution was
plastic cutlery, Styrofoam food boxes and disposable paper bags. Once garbage
enters the ocean what does not sink, floats on the surface and in Roatan’s case
forms a large collective patch. This patch has negative effects on the corals
and the water quality, as the garbage on the surface blocks light from reaching
the water and species living within, which is contributing to coral bleaching
and diminishing quality of the water supply, meaning very few species are able
to survive. Eutrophication has also been enhanced through the addition of
nutrients during the decomposition of floating plastics, as these release
chemical compounds into the water as they break down.