Kids' Environmental Report Card: Coral Reefs

Pollution may be the biggest threat to coral reefs, according to the Kids' Environmental Report Card poll. Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) seem to agree. They cite pollution from land-based sources as a primary cause of coral reef degradation throughout the world.

More than three fourths of all water pollution in the Caribbean Sea originates from activities on land, NOAA scientists report. Pesticides and nutrients from farmlands and spilled oil and gasoline from city streets are easily washed from land into the water. Once these pollutants enter the ocean system, they can kill the small sea animals, called polyps, that build coral reefs.

Beach Cleanups Combat Marine Debris
"Marine debris also affects reefs in many areas," NOAA's 200th Anniversary Web site explains. "Hundreds of human-made items end up as marine debris, including plastics (from bags to balloons, hard hats to fishing line), glass, metal, rubber (millions of tires!), and even entire vessels."

There are several easy ways for kids to combat marine debris. For instance, you can bring a large plastic bag on your next beach hike and use it to hold any aluminum cans and glass or plastic bottles you find on your outing. Later, recycle those cans and bottles — and help save our coral reefs.

As one contributor to Scholastic's Save the Planet message board put it, "You can help the earth by picking up trash and putting it where it belongs."