Coral, Coral Reefs, Coral Bleaching, Coral Facts, Threatened Coral Reefs and the Consequences of Extinction Including Popular Diving Destinations are Here for You to Examine and Enjoy.
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What is Coral?
Popular, Beautiful, and home to many sea creatures makes coral reefs a true wonder to behold. The colors and life teeming from them is extraordinary and although we need to utilize these for our recreational fishing and scuba diving use, we also need to help preserve them for the life they give to the oceans around us. Please enjoy our Coral Page and like and share its beauty and knowledge with others.
We’ve all seen pieces of coral in gift shops around the globe. Perhaps we have an acquaintance with the name ‘Coral.’ Maybe we’ve gone scuba diving during a family vacation and seen its natural beauty first hand. However, very few people actually know much about this magnificent being. Is it a plant? Is it a rock formation? What does it do? Let’s delve into the topic.
These are the small, individual pieces of the puzzle that make up coral systems, which, when combined, are known as coral reefs. Despite common belief, coral is not a plant or a stone (even though it often looks this way when dried and sold in novelty stores).
Coral is actually a living, breathing creature. This invertebrate lives in tropical areas of the ocean and releases calcium carbonate to form a hard exoskeleton which protects it from predators. It is a distant and ancient relative of jellyfish, having been traced back since way before most dinosaur species. Colonies of coral, all with identical genetics, form the beautiful and important reefs on which most sea creatures depend for sustenance.
Most of the world’s coral consumes its energy from the microorganisms which call coral their home. Commonly referred to as zooxanthellae, these photosynthetic single-celled dinoflagellates live deep within the coral’s tissue. Their relationship is give and take, meaning that these creatures are codependent.
This is not always the case though; some corals have the ability to catch plankton and even small fish as a high-protein snack. Being relatives of the jellyfish, it would be a fatal mistake to underestimate the power of their tentacles just because they are aesthetically pleasing.
Many types of coral will sting and immobilize small aquatic animals which venture too close using their nematocysts, venom-filled cells which rapidly release the toxic goo upon the tap of a trigger cell (cnidocil).
One the prey is unable to fight back, tentacles will slowly reach out and grab the creature, bringing it into the mouth of the coral. These creatures are comparatively simple but still have a complex digestive system, distributing nutrients and expelling waste.
Coral spawns both sexually and asexually. In many coral families, individual heads grow off of preexisting polyps, which then grow at a rate of 2-10cm per day depending on the species and living conditions. Other groups form hermaphroditic colonies which release gametes (egg and sperm) into the surrounding waters to produce offspring and continue the lifecycle.
The eggs and sperm fuse to form planula, the microscopic larval form of coral. Sunlight is required for healthy coral to grow, but besides that, these creatures are quite resilient. They can live as deep as 10,000 feet below sea level or as shallow as 100 feet, and they have been found in most areas of the globe.
Truly an amazing creature, coral is one of the oldest known animals still in existence. It has survived all five mass extinction events in the Earth’s history, including the first and the worst 250 million years ago in which 96% of all aquatic life was destroyed.
This versatile, enigmatic, and beautiful creature should be treasured and must be protected; surprisingly, its biggest threat ever exists right now… In the human population.
Surprising Facts About Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are big and beautiful parts of the aquatic ecosystem. These living, breathing giants have been around for hundreds of millions of years in various forms and continue to maintain their spot as a key part of Earth’s environment.
So, what is there to know about the coral reefs? Believe it or not, the list stretches on for miles, much like the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef which resides off the coast of Australia (that’s fact #1; let’s move on…)
Coral Reefs are Huge
Coral reefs cover approximately 1% of the ocean floor. Sounds insignificant, right? WRONG! The oceans are so vast that a small 1% is actually a huge portion of the Earth’s surface. Not only that, but they really are a crucial factor in the environment.
The state of the coral reefs tell scientists a lot about the state of underwater life. Healthy coral is a sign of a healthy ocean; a healthy ocean makes for a healthy planet.
Coral is Alive
Despite common belief, coral is not a plant. These massive organisms are distant relatives of anemones and jellyfish that’s right, coral reefs are actually animals.
However, something about coral reefs that makes them extremely intriguing to the scientific community is that, even though they are living beings, they rely on photosynthetic processing to continue living. Think of them as a plant-animal hybrid.
The microscopic algae living within the cells of coral reefs feeds off of the coral while providing the nutrients back to said coral. This accounts for as much as 90% of the energy required to feed the coral; the other 10% comes from standard hunting techniques. Coral uses its finger-like tentacles to catch passing fish when it’s feeling hungry.
Coral is Very Important to Science
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), new medicines are constantly being developed thanks to the enormous amount of research scientists have done and continue to do on coral reefs.
These new medicines include treatments for various types of cancer, bacterial infections, Alzheimer’s disease, an array of viruses, arthritis, heart diseases, and more. Not only is coral vital for the life of underwater beings, it has actually saved hundreds of thousands of human lives as well. What a magnificent creature!
Coral is Expensive
Clearly, coral reefs are very important to the livelihood of our planet. So, how do we quantify these benefits? Well, studies have been conducted that factored in the necessity of coral reefs across different industries.
These mainly included shoreline protection, fishing, and tourism. The consensus remains broad but significant: each kilometer of coral reef accounts for an additional $137,000 to $1,200,000 over a span of 25 years. This means that when large corporations carelessly pollute waters and kill giant beds of coral, the results are more devastating than many people even realize.
The worst part of this sad fact is that, despite the huge numbers cited, over 60% of the world’s coral reef population is currently being threatened by environmental damage.
The Biodiversity is Astounding
Hundreds and sometimes thousands of species (depending on the area) call coral reefs their home. This is because coral reefs are a great place to find food and shelter, as well as other necessary goods. When mating season comes around, many reefs are a hotspot for reproduction.
They also offer protection for many species of big fish before they’ve grown into their prime. This is one of the reasons why it is imperative to aquatic lifeforms that coral reefs are protected. Hypothetically, if the reefs were to go extinct, tens of thousands of underwater families would find themselves homeless and would most likely fall victim to the perils of the ocean’s depths.
Obviously, coral reefs are important enough to be taken seriously and protected. It is very disillusioning to see the carelessness of humans damaging such a beautiful and important life-form. While it is impossible to fix a problem this nuanced with one article, readers are encouraged to do their part by recycling and avoiding littering. This simple and righteous task is enough to solidify your position as a friend of the world’s coral reefs.
The Great Barrier Reef Facts
Believe it or not, 25% of all life underwater relies heavily on coral reefs for its livelihood. These massive creatures are arguably some of the most important beings the world has ever known. Some exist as small buildups, while others stretch over thousands of miles. So, we know that these guys are impressive, but just how impressive can they get?
There are some truly gigantic coral reefs spread out all over the world. The most highly regarded one would have to be the Great Barrier Reef near the coast of Queensland, Australia.
This reef’s wingspan reaches an incredible 1,800 miles and is made up of over 3,000 reef systems. This huge living being is one of the most massive ever to have existed and is estimated to be approximately 500,000 years old.
Sadly, the reef has been disrupted by a variety of factors, namely over fishing and careless tourism, so a great portion has been lost to coral bleaching and perpetual starvation.
Nearly 90% of the reef is affected and approximately 50% has been permanently damaged. Thankfully, there are groups seeking to restore the natural treasure to its once great state through new ordinances and education.
Red Sea Coral Reef Facts
Next up is the Red Sea Coral Reef which resides mainly in Egypt. However, parts of it stretch into Saudi Arabia as well as Israel. Interestingly, this reef is home to great biodiversity.
About 10% of the thousands of species found here are home only to this reef and haven’t been discovered anywhere else in the world.
This reef is between 5,000 and 7,000 years old and is even the residence of the notable Dahab Blue Hole, the famously deep and dark dive site.
Apo Reef Facts
The Apo Reef in the Philippines is the second largest reef system after the Great Barrier Reef. At 13.2 square miles (or 67,877 acres), this massive being truly was impressive…
However, due to runoff and over-fishing in the area, the detriment to this reef has been so severe that a fishing ban was set into place by the Philippine government in an attempt to preserve what was left of the national treasure. This is just another sad example of how carelessness can do serious damage to the environment.
Florida Keys Reef Facts
The Florida Keys Reef in the United States must be included in this list due to the conditions which allow these systems of coral to survive. Many areas around the United States’ coast are less hospitable for coral, but Florida’s Pacific region brew an environment which is nearly perfect for the well being of coral.
The warm temperatures and bright sunlight allow for seamless photosynthetic nurturing, and the constant but non-violent wave action allows for the expulsion of waste while bringing in a plethora of nutrients, including fresh oxygen and millions of plankton.
Thousands of scuba divers visit this area every year to see the natural beauty of the region and to experience the astounding biodiversity, unmatched by theme parks found scattered across the rest of the country.
New Caledonia Barrier Reef Facts
The New Caledonia Barrier Reef in New Caledonia is one of the most diverse and extensive systems of coral in the world. Second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, this area is known for its natural beauty and crystal-clear waters.
The South Pacific waters 750 miles off Australia’s coast are a perfect breeding ground for all sorts of aquatic animals, including this coral. Many new species have been discovered here, and only here, and new ones are being discovered at a strangely fast-paced rate.
The diversity of underwater populations truly are amazing around reefs, especially ones as large and breathtaking as this one.
Andros Barrier Reef Facts
The next interesting coral reef is the Andros Barrier Reef in the Bahamas. Not only is it very large, stretching for over 140 miles, but it is not flat on the bottom of the ocean as most coral systems are.
This barrier reef sits on the border of a huge oceanic trench dubbed the “Tongue of the Ocean.” There are flat portions of it, but a large part of this reef drops down into the trench deeper than 6,000 feet.
Belize Barrier Reef Facts
The largest reef in the Western hemisphere is the Belize Barrier Reef in (you guessed it) Belize. The famed scientist Charles Darwin, amid his famous global travels, stated that this reef was the “most remarkable reef in the West Indies.” Something truly spectacular which draws great crowds to this area is the Great Blue Hole, whose vastness excites some and puzzles others.
These two amazing natural wonders have made the area famous. Alas, this has come with a cost: the area has been plundered by cruise ships and tourism, drawing commerce to the country of Belize but damaging the ecosystem in the process.
The Belize Barrier Reef has fallen victim to the tragedies of coral bleaching in recent years, and a great portion of it is likely doomed. Still, the beauty of the reef can be appreciated and most likely will continue to be for years to come.
Saya de Malha Banks Facts
Finally, the Saya de Malha Banks in the heart of the Indian Ocean are the largest underwater banks in the world. Not only that, but this important ridge connects the Mauritius and the Seychelles islands along the Mascarene Plateau. This hot spot is home to many coral systems and a large array of animals; it is a breeding ground for blue whales and it feeds several species of turtle.
There is far more to coral than many people know. It’s an interesting topic to learn about because of its vital nature within the world’s ecosystems.
To downplay the importance of coral reefs is to invalidate tens of thousands of rare species and the entire nature of underwater life. Education and environmental protection are necessary to preserving this delicate and important life-form; luckily, there are many groups, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), at work on these crucial issues. Make yourself aware and spread the word!
Facts on Coral Reef Bleaching
Coral Reef bleaching Copyright: www.123rf.com/profile_sabangvideo
Coral bleaching is a significant current issue in the ecosystem of the world’s oceans. It is happening exponentially faster every year, and if things continue at this rate, the aquatic ecosystem will be left vulnerable and mass extinctions will occur. So, what is coral bleaching? It’s nothing like the bleaching processes most humans are familiar with, such as hair bleaching. This process is more complex and far more detrimental to the atmosphere.
Coral bleaching occurs when an existential threat causes the algae feeding off of a coral reef to feel threatened and migrate. These threats come in many forms: significant changes in temperature, pollution and runoff, over fishing or cyanide fishing, overexposure to sunlight, and extremely low tides are the main events which cause this phenomenon.
Once the algae (which is imperative to the survival of coral) leaves, the remaining coral has a pale, sickly white hue, a sign that it lacks the nutrients it needs to survive. A bleaching event doesn’t necessarily mean that a patch of coral will die, but this often occurs shortly after if the problem which caused it isn’t quickly corrected.
In 2005, a mass coral mortality event occurred in the United States near the Caribbean. Near the northern waters of the Antilles near Puerto Rico, satellite data indicated that a huge temperature increase, more extreme than anything seen in the last 20 years combined, was taking effect. This resulted in the bleaching and eventual death of approximately half of the Northern coral reefs.
Sadly, this is just one of many examples of the true detriment being caused by human carelessness. Additionally, warm water only accounts for one portion of coral deaths, and temperature drops can also have a similar result. One key example of this was also in the United States near Florida. Luckily, this event was far less extreme, but that doesn’t mean it should be brushed off. Each kilometer of lost coral means hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses across many key industries.
Coral bleaching is now reaching an unprecedented scale. The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef (located near Australia), has fallen victim to the devastating effects of this process. Nearly 90% of the reef was recorded as being hit at the end of 2016; this has resulted in the starvation and death of nearly 20% of the entire being. This severe bleaching event was mainly written off as a result of a rise in ocean temperature due to global warming.
Brian Skoloff of The Christian Science Monitor said, “If the reefs vanished, hunger, poverty, and political instability could ensue.” These beings are vital to the planet’s ecosystem, and this does not just mean aquatic life. If things were to continue at their current rate, the results would be disastrous. It is imperative that everyone makes themselves knowledgeable and makes decisions which help the earth, not hurt it.
Many experts believe that coral reefs are a ‘canary in the coal mine’ for the health of our planet. As land dwellers, we can’t see or feel the effects of climate change and other detrimental forces at work in the ocean, but the fact is that coral reefs can. The strange changes occurring in the world’s most important reef systems show us that something is terribly wrong. Even the largest and oldest coral systems in the world are seriously at risk during this important time.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
The world’s largest coral reef system, has already experienced a 50 percent decline in coral cover over the last 27 years, in large part due to nutrient runoff from the coasts. But recently, an even more outrageous threat has surfaced. According to Scientific American, there are six coal export-related development or expansion proposals under assessment by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
It seems that Australia’s coal industry wants to build a series of ports in close proximity to the reef in order to expedite the expulsion of their toxic product. To do so would mean “dredging and dumping of 113 million cubic meters of seabed for ports and up to 10,000 coal ships crossing the reef every year.” Such an act would be a fatal fact to the reef.
Overfishing Problems Causing Grave Danger
The ocean, particularly the fish and other seafood it has to offer, has always been very important to Asian culture. Unfortunately, sustainable fishing has only recently become part of the discussion, an oversight that has put the region’s nearly 100,000 square kilometers of coral reefs, almost 34 percent of the world total, in grave danger.
“Human activities now threaten an estimated 88 percent of Southeast Asia’s coral reefs, jeopardizing their biological and economic value to society. For 50 percent of these reefs, the level of threat is ‘high’ or ‘very high.’ Only 12 percent of reefs are at low risk,” explains the World Resources Institute (WRI).
Coral Reef Strip Mining
Overfishing isn’t the only human activity factor that has a negative effect on coral reefs. In the Indian Ocean, many reefs have been strip-mined for use as a cheap building material. The coral is processed and used in construction materials, most frequently building blocks and a lime plaster very popular with native builders. It’s cheap and it’s strong, but at what cost?
The Human Threat to Ocean Coral Reefs Continues
Nearly two-thirds of coral reefs in the Caribbean are threatened by the facts of human activities, such as coastal development, sediment and pollution, marine based threats, and overfishing. As a popular tourist destination, the Caribbean reefs are also greatly threatened by waste from cruise ships, tankers, and yachts that is discharged directly into the water. “In addition, coral bleaching episodes-the most direct evidence of stress from global climate change on Caribbean marine biodiversity-are on the rise,” says WRI.
From an environmentalist’s point of view, all of this is truly appalling. However, this might be a part of the problem. Everyone should be paying attention to this fact, not just nature enthusiasts. We all care about life and happiness, so let’s do our respective parts in preserving the earth.
Facts on The Danger of Coral Reef Extinction
If you had to guess, how many aquatic creatures would you say rely on the world’s coral reef systems for sustenance? 5%? Perhaps 10%? Try 90%. Yes, it’s true. Over 25% of marine animals live in or near coral reefs, but 90% of all animals found exclusively underwater need coral for some important aspect of life.
Coral is Too Important to Ignore
It might be a feeding ground or a breeding ground, or simply a place to sleep. No matter what, we know that these systems are extremely important. So, why do we allow the mass degradation of these systems to continue occurring? 70% of our important reefs are left, which means nearly a third of all coral has perished, and the cost of this truly is astounding.
Oceanic acidification, unethical fishing or overfishing, global warming events, sedimentation, and other human-caused factors are all working in a dark harmony, contributing to a mass extinction event whose historic value will be equivalent to that of the dinosaurs. What’s most disturbing is that coral only grows 1-10 cm per day, and it’s usually on the lower side.
We Need to Help Now to Save the World
This means that even if we significantly slow down the processes that are causing this dilemma, coral will still have a very difficult time replenishing itself to its previous state. The health of coral reef systems is an important teller in the health of the ocean and therefore the world. That is just another reason as to why the scientific community is in such a frenzy over the current state of the situation.
So, could coral polyps really go extinct? Sadly, this scenario is not so farfetched. Coral reefs are dying at a rate which has never been witnessed in all of human history. A prime example is the Caribbean reef system which is now composed of just 8% living coral, compared to a whopping 50% just 50 years ago.
If things continue at this rate, the results are uncertain at this time, but the consensus is clear: it will NOT be good. Every year, hundreds of billions of dollars are generated, mostly for low-income countries, thanks to coral reef systems. This and many other factors have led experts to hypothesize that mass hunger, political instability, and poverty would skyrocket across areas of the world that depend on aquatic tourism and fishing for their well being.
The fact is that millions of people would starve due to the sudden drop in fish population, since fish are a staple food in many prevalent areas of the world. “Coral reefs are part of the foundation of the ocean food chain. Nearly half the fish the world eats make their homes around them. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide — by some estimates, 1 billion across Asia alone — depend on them for their food and their livelihoods.”
We can all agree that the consequences of coral extinction would not be favorable. This means that we as humans must come together to prevent this crisis. Small everyday actions like taking alternative transportation, joining beach cleanup endeavors, choosing to recycle instead of littering, and reducing the use of pesticides in horticulture can have a big impact if more people join the movement. Besides that, let’s all just hope that the problem subsides soon and remember that the earth is our friend and it must be taken care of.