Biodiversity, Its Importance and Life in Manuel Antonio

Biodiversity, Its Importance and Life in Manuel Antonio

 Biodiversity is a necessary aspect of our natural world, keeping our ecosystems up and running properly. Without it, key ecosystems would collapse, with the losses being great. Manuel Antonio is no different. It is home to an amazing example of biodiversity, teeming with all forms of life. 

What is Biodiversity?

 Biodiversity, short for biological diversity, refers to all of the different living beings in an ecosystem. Plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms, all fall under biodiversity. If it is a living part of an ecosystem, then it falls under the term. 

Importance

 Biodiversity is what keeps an ecosystem running. Every living being contributes to and makes up an ecosystem. Think of every creature as a piece of a puzzle. The puzzle begins to collapse and disappear with each piece you take away. All of the species in an ecosystem help each other survive and keep it running. As more species are lost, food chains begin to fall apart and we start to lose even more creatures. Every living thing is an essential part of a food chain, and they would collapse as more species die out. Ecosystem loss is important to us as well. We rely on different ecosystems for food, clean water, clean air, clothing, all sorts of different materials and supplies, and we even harvest medicine from them. These are just a few of the many fruits we gather from an ecosystem. Additionally, pollinators in these natural areas pollinate our crops. Since we gather so many different resources from ecosystems, countless industries rely on them in some sort of way. To add onto this, 50% of the world’s economies rely on ecosystems in some manner (Ran, 13).  Ecosystems like coral reefs also mitigate the effects of natural disasters, protecting local populations from waves, storms, flooding, and more. 

Threats to Biodiversity

 Biodiversity also faces many threats as well. Climate change, which brings about changed weather patterns, can cause severe weather to become more frequent, as well as more extreme. An example being droughts that are more frequent and stronger than usual killing off plants and animals in a certain ecosystem. Pollution from human industry is also a prominent issue. Chemicals and harmful materials can pollute the air, water, and soil in an ecosystem, killing off and harming many different species. The destruction of habitats is also an issue as well. Human development and expansion is the cause of destruction towards many ecosystems. Deforestation is a prominent example. As humans expand into natural areas, habitats are often destroyed, dooming many important species. Overhunting and overfishing is another issue. Humans have unfortunately hunted or fished countless species towards either endangerment or extinction. Unregulated practices have led to the deaths of many, many species. 

Biodiversity in Manuel Antonio and Costa Rica as a Whole

 Manuel Antonio is a hub for biodiversity, an aspect which it has gained fame for. Looking specifically into the waters of Manuel Antonio, there are actually around 80 different species of fish (Costa Rica.org, 2). It is also home to many other various marine creatures as well, such as dolphins, whales, sea turtles, octopuses, nudibranchs, sea horses, and more. Corals, a necessary part of Manuel Antonio’s environment, also fall under the umbrella of biodiversity, they are alive after all. All of these species rely on each other for survival. An example that one can look towards is coral and how it provides for many different species. Many creatures use the coral reefs as feeding grounds, spawning grounds, nursing grounds, shelter, and more. All of these various species also contribute to the food chain to keep life going in the waters of Manuel Antonio. Costa Rica itself is an epicenter of biodiversity, with it being one of the most diverse places on the planet, housing half a million species, or 5% of all of Earth’s species (Kew, 2). What is more impressive is that Costa Rica makes up only 0.03% of the world’s landmass (Kew, 3).  All of these species depend on each other to survive, and they keep the ecosystems running. By keeping the ecosystems running, they are keeping human life and industry possible as well. 

Written by Michael Basharis

Coral Reefs: Their Importance and Their State in 2024

Coral Reefs: Their Importance and Their State in 2024

 The health and restoration of coral reefs has been a large topic in the field of marine conservation. Through human activity and climate change, coral reefs have taken detrimental damage, posing a massive risk to the health of our oceans and the living beings that inhabit and benefit from it, including humans.

Why are coral reefs so important?

 Why are coral reefs important? According to Pew Trusts, coral reefs support 25% of all marine species, and are biodiversity hotspots, allowing for species to seek shelter, reproduce, feed, and nurse their young. They make up less than 1% of the ocean floor, but, as previously stated, support 25% of all marine species (Razek, 3). On top of this, the corals themselves are living organisms and play a large role in their ecosystems, and damages done to these reefs harm them as well. According to NOAA, coral reefs benefit more species per unit than any other marine environment, housing around 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals, and hundreds of other aquatic species (NOAA, 1). This is not even including the millions of undiscovered species that may be living within these biodiversity epicenters. These reefs also bring about many benefits for humans as well. According to NOAA, they play an imperative role in keeping up both commercial and subsistence fisheries, as well as countless jobs in the recreation and tourism sector. These reefs are invaluable to the function of fisheries, which bring in large amounts of income and food. Many countries also depend on these reefs for tourism, as they bring about many visitors, recreational opportunities, and hotels, which in turn helps maintain their economy. They not only are imperative for both resources and income, but they also protect us from natural disasters. NOAA goes on to state that they buffer 97% of energy from waves, storms, and floods, making them invaluable in the protection of life, communities, as well as the prevention of erosion (NOAA, 3). Without these reefs, coastal communities would find themselves far more exposed to the devastating effects of these disasters. Reefs face many dangers such as pollution, disease and habitat destruction, all of which will be covered further later in this article. Essentially without these reefs, we would see massive losses in biodiversity and natural habitats, blows to natural food chains and ecosystems, as well as detrimental blows to fisheries, a key source of food and income, tourism, which is essential for the economy in many countries, as well as an increase in threats to coastal communities.





 How are they threatened?

 What threats do coral reefs face? How have they been damaged? NOAA provides further information on how coral reefs have become under danger from human activity. Pollution, overfishing, harmful fishing habits, the collection of corals, the mining of coral, as well as climate change, are all vectors of damage for these reefs. Land-based runoff, pollutant discharges, leaking fuels, paints, and chemicals, are all human-based sources that can harm the ocean’s reefs. Additionally, if there is an oil spill during a coral’s spawning process, the eggs and sperm will also be harmed. The collection of corals for sales purposes can also prove detrimental to these reefs. NOAA also states that many fishing practices can also prove detrimental, such as blast fishing and cyanide fishing. The practice of deep water trawling, which involves the dragging of large nets along the sea bottom. These nets can be left as debris in the reefs, and can result in the corals being tangled. The reefs are also impacted by weighted bags, startling and scaring life out of their habitats within these said reefs. Finally, the effects of climate change can result in coral bleaching, which can severely harm the corals. Greenhouse gasses that are emitted from human activity can lead to this effect, as an increase in their presence causes global warming, which in turns also warms the oceans, bleaching the corals.

 The state of coral reefs in Costa Rica and Latin America

 One may also ask: how are coral reefs faring in Costa Rica and Latin America? The Latin American region as a whole is a haven for biodiversity and habitats. According to the Costa Rica International Academy, Costa Rica is home to an impressive number of almost 7,000 different marine species (CRIA, 2). The LAC region, or Latin America and the Caribbean, host 10% of the world’s coral reefs (Climate Champions, 1). These reefs are home to countless species, as stated earlier, 25% of all marine species live in coral reefs around the globe. The coral reefs in Latin America are epicenters of life. Matter of fact, according to the NRDC, Latin America is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. That being said, it is imperative that these centers of life are protected. EarthJustice.org states that 93% of the reefs in Costa Rica are in danger, and that tourism is a large factor (Cossio, 3). Unsustainable tourism is a whole issue in of itself, as large amounts of human intrusion can have detrimental effects on marine ecosystems. Sedimentation from human activity threatens the pacific coral reefs of Costa Rica. Looking at Latin America as a whole, 50% of all coral reefs in Latin America are at risk of degradation in the next five to ten years (Cossio, 7). Coral bleaching also threatens the reefs of this region. According to the Tico Times, rising ocean temperatures from climate change exacerbate the effects of El Nino events, which is a natural warm period in the waters of the Pacific. As ocean temperatures rise, El Nino only gets warmer, therefore leading to coral bleaching.

 

Government Action

 There has been action from the world’s governments to protect our oceans. These actions have both pros and cons. According to Royal Museums Greenwich, Marine Protected Areas have been developed to counter the damage and overuse of our oceans. Just like within national parks, these areas are limited to human activity and industry. Marine Protected Areas require the limitation of drilling, fishing, and diving. They have been established with the central idea that aquatic animals, plants, and habitats are protected from detrimental human activities. These areas are protected by laws, regulations, voluntary agreements, and codes of conduct . However, these areas do have their pitfalls. According to Mind the Gap: Addressing the Shortcomings of Marine Protected Areas Through Large Scale Marine Spatial Planning, a journal within ScienceDirect, there are multiple fields where marine protected areas fall short. They may be too small to be ecologically sufficient, inappropriately managed or planned, fail due to degradation of unprotected surrounding ecosystems, and may do more harm than good due to displacement and unintended consequences of management.

Summary

 The takeaway? Coral reefs are essential for not only a countless number of marine species and the overall health of our world’s ocean ecosystems, but they also bring a fruitful amount of benefits for humans. These priceless areas are at danger from the harmful consequences of human activity, and it is imperative that they are protected and taken care of.

Written by Michael Basharis 

References:

https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2022/12/06/6-reasons-coral-reefs-deserve-protection

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial_corals/coral07_importance.html

https://criacademy.com/costa-rica-marine-life-4-types-of-underwater-wonders/#:~:text=In%20point%20of%20fact%2C%20nearly,country%20smaller%20than%20West%20Virginia.

https://climatechampions.unfccc.int/ocean-breakthroughs-latin-america-caribbean-ocean-based-climate-action/#:~:text=The%20region%20is%20home%20to,its%20largest%20expanse%20of%20wetlands.

https://www.nrdc.org/bio/jessica-carey-webb/latin-americas-biodiversity-critical-global-goals

https://earthjustice.org/article/coral-reefs-and-the-unintended-impact-of-tourism

https://ticotimes.net/2023/08/20/costa-ricas-coral-reefs-in-peril-as-temperatures-rise

https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/our-ocean-our-planet/what-is-30×30-marine-protected-areas-ocean-2030

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308597X10001740#:~:text=MPA%20shortcomings%20are%20categorized%20as,more%20harm%20than%20good%20due

 

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Unsustainable Tourism and its Negative Effects

Unsustainable Tourism and its Negative Effects

 Our oceans are a massive attraction for tourists around the globe every year. Although visiting these beautiful natural areas can be a fulfilling experience, one must be aware of the effects it may bring upon the environment. If tourism is done in an unsustainable manner, it can bring about numerous negative effects on our oceans. 

How can marine tourism harm corals?

To start off, marine tourism can disrupt and damage our coral reefs, which are epicenters of life and biodiversity. According to EarthJustice.org, when diving excursions touch, pollute, or break off parts of the reef, the corals will experience stress, which actually leads to coral bleaching, a harmful process for not only the coral, but the entire ecosystem as a whole. During the process, the corals attempt to expel the brightly colored algae that reside on them, resulting in a sort of white appearance. This will lead to their death, which brings detrimental consequences to the life that depend on them. Another negative effect that can be brought on by unsustainable tourism practices is that of sedimentation. EarthJustice.org states that this process involves the deposition of dirt and debris into the ocean, polluting the marine ecosystems and blocking the much needed sunlight that algae rely on to survive. Once this sunlight is blocked, the algae die, once again bringing about coral bleaching. In Costa Rica, sedimentation occurs through the processes of dredging, loging, agriculture, and coastal development that is brought about by marine tourism. Earthjustice.org goes on to state that 50% of all coral reefs in Latin America are at risk of degradation in the next five to ten years. Additionally, 30% of coral reefs around the globe are already severely damaged, and 70% of all reefs are expected to disappear by 2030 (Cossio, 7). This would bring about detrimental consequences to the entire planet, as thousands of species that are necessary to the ocean and the planet as a whole rely on these reefs. They also bring about many benefits to humans as well, housing large fisheries, which bring in large amounts of income and food, the mitigation of the effects of natural disasters, and being epicenters for tourism.

Marine Debris & Tourism – Profugo – A Global Neighborhood for a Better  Quality of LIfe

                                                    From We the Recyclates

Unsustainable tourism can also lead to innumerable amounts of garbage being dumped into the oceans. According to NOAA, marine debris can kill or harm wildlife, as they may consume it or become entangled within it. The World Economic Forum states that 8 million metric tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean each year (Lacle, Dragozet, Novotny, 11). In addition to this, they also state that 14,000 tonnes of toxic sunscreen end up in the ocean each year, and on top of this, 82,000 different kinds of chemicals can find their way into the oceans (Lacle, Dragozet, Novotny, 9). Planet Wild states that boat traffic can also affect marine life as well. It may lead to accidental oil spills, collisions with marine mammals, disturbance of the sea floor, the introduction of invasive species, and it may chase away key species from their habitats. Unsustainable tourism can also bring about the issue of noise pollution, as areas may have hundreds of boats all touring a coastline, bringing about a disruptive level of noise. As a result, this disrupts wildlife in the area, and additionally may also interrupt dolphin and whale communication, who rely on sound for communication and navigation. 

Summary

 Although tourism in marine areas acts as an escape for millions each year, as well as a massive source of income for many countries, it must be done in a sustainable manner. Unsustainable tourism brings a plethora of harmful consequences for our oceans, and it is imperative that it is addressed and acted on. One should still be able to enjoy the fruitful benefits of the ocean, but it must be only done in a careful manner. 

Written by Michael Basharis 

References

https://earthjustice.org/article/coral-reefs-and-the-unintended-impact-of-tourism

https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/ocean-coasts/ocean-pollution

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/03/tourism-is-killing-our-oceans-heres-what-we-can-do-to-protect-them/

https://planetwild.com/blog/why-is-mass-tourism-bad-for-the-ocean

https://wir-fuer-recyclat.de/en/muellmeer-mehr-muelle

 

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Marine Conservation: Why and How You Should Get Involved

Marine Conservation: Why and How You Should Get Involved

Why should you help? The importance of coral reefs

 Human activity has dealt a massive blow to our oceans. Pollution from human activities and industry, damaging fishing practices, the usage of large nets in oceans, and climate change have all brought nothing but harm to coral reefs, which are epicenters of biodiversity in our oceans. They are home to thousands upon thousands of aquatic species, and are imperative to the health of our oceans and planet in its entirety. They also bring about many benefits for humans, as they allow for fisheries to operate, albeit that they are acting sustainably. These fisheries bring in large amounts of both food and income. Many countries also rely on them for recreation and tourism. On top of this, they act as barriers to water-based natural disasters and storms, proving to be invaluable to coastal communities. As residents of this planet, it should be our responsibility to uphold these precious areas, as they not only highly benefit us, but thousands, perhaps even millions of species. 

How can you help?

 This brings about the question? How can you help? To start off, one can join an ocean conservation community, such as here at MCCR. There are countless communities and volunteer opportunities that one can involve themselves with. They can also intern with one of these groups, another opportunity that MCCR provides. Not only is there MCCR, but as stated there are countless groups dedicated to the protection of our oceans, and are typically oriented with a certain location, such as MCCR is with Costa Rica. If one lives near water, there is very likely a group there dedicated to the protection and advocacy of that resource. One can also reduce their carbon footprint, as the process of climate change has been bringing about increasing temperatures, damaging our reefs via coral bleaching. They can also lower plastic use as well, as multitudes of plastic find their way into our oceans every year. The consumption of environmentally friendly products also helps in the protection of our oceans, as chemicals often find their way into our oceans as well. 

 

 

 

 Additionally, one can also find out how to support sustainable fisheries, as a large contributor to the damage of our oceans is through unsustainable fishing practices. One should also be mindful of the products that they buy, an example being that many souvenirs may contain objects gathered from marine life. One must be mindful of how these parts were acquired. Education is also a very important way to contribute to the conservation of our oceans. Being educated on topics and spreading awareness is key to having more and more join the fight of protecting our oceans. One can also be involved with campaigns that spread awareness and shoot for community involvement, a practice that MCCR participates in as well. Again, some of the most effective ways to help participate in the protection of our sacred oceans is by being involved yourself. Joining and participating in groups/campaigns that involve themselves in the conservation of wildlife, coral reefs, sustainable practices, and other useful avenues can help one be involved in the field of marine conservation. One can always look to their own local areas for these groups, as they are typically numerous. If one wishes, they can even participate from a distance by donating or getting involved remotely, such as with MCCR and the remote internships that are offered.  As previously stated, it is also important to be educated, as the more knowledgeable one is about the topic, the more they can help and educate others.

Our Oceans

 Protecting our oceans is a vital job in the world of conservation. Not only do they support our way of life, keep our world moving, and protect us, but they also serve as a habitat for an innumerable species on our planet. The destruction of ocean ecosystems would be devastating for practically all life on Earth, however you have the power to help protect them. 

Written by Michael Basharis

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Mayella’s Costa Rican Internship

Mayella’s Costa Rican Internship

My Time at Marine Conservation Costa Rica

As a Sustainable Tourism and Business Intern

One of our recent interns, Mayella, joined us for 6 weeks, assisting with our Sustainable Tourism and Business program. Hear from her about her experience. 

Over the past six weeks, I have been undergoing a Sustainable Tourism and Business Internship with Marine Conservation Costa Rica (MCCR) in Quepos, Costa Rica. I have learnt so much throughout my time here and made unforgettable memories with some incredible people. Coming from Australia, I have always been passionate about protecting our oceans, but working with MCCR has truly given me a new perspective on the importance of our reefs and marine ecosystems.

Having the opportunity to witness firsthand all that goes into marine conservation made me realise just how important the work that MCCR is doing is. From hands-on coral restoration projects to educational outreach aimed at divers, schools, and the broader public, there are so many facets of the business, all equally important.

Throughout my time here, I have contributed to various projects and initiatives, including creating social media content, assisting with coral fragmentation, and developing educational materials. This experience has provided invaluable insights into the intricacies of running a business and the necessity of achieving sustainable tourism practices. 

One project that I particularly enjoyed was developing an educational video alongside Nashira, explaining the process of coral restoration. This project provided me with so many new skills such as video editing, colour grading, and researching. The transferable skills and knowledge that I have collected throughout my internship will be extremely valuable in my future career.

In my freetime!

Staying in a homestay during my internship was one of my favourite aspects of the program as I was able to immerse myself in the culture and language of Costa Rica. The family was so welcoming, giving me the opportunity to improve my Spanish and try some delicious Costa Rican food. 

The sense of community within the program was also amazing, whether it was going to the release turtles at sunset or to the bar for a couple of drinks, everyone was always up to hang out together and become great friends. 

Tourism has the power to foster peace, with people from all across the world coming together to appreciate the same views, nature, and experiences. The industry depends on the survival of our environments- without a thriving, beautiful landscape, people will stop coming. Protecting and conserving the world’s natural assets is imperative in sustaining the tourism industry. It is so important that everyone involved in tourism- the tourists, local communities, organisations, governments- take the responsibility to create a responsible, sustainable tourism industry.

The ocean is such a vital ecosystem for the world. Without organisations like Marine Conservation Costa Rica, we have no chance of sustaining a holistic tourism industry. Without coral reefs, we have nothing.

By Mayella Bignell 

Want to get involved ?

With all of the projects we work hard on throughout the year, we are always looking for help. You can get involved with one of our internship or volunteer programs.

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