Coral reefs are unique, biologically rich, and complex ecosystems that are sometimes called the “rainforests of the ocean”. A coral reef is a colony of millions of tiny, soft-bodied organisms related to sea anemones and jellyfish, called polyps. As they grow, each polyp produces a hard, limestone skeleton, on which the next generation of polyps grow. Many corals on the Great Barrier Reef spawn( produce eggs) once a year. They all do it at exactly the same time – four to five days after the Full Moon in October or November – to create a spectacular “ underwater snowstorm” as the sea is filled with eggs.
Corals also contain algae, which is essential for their survival.Without the algae, the coral “bleaches” – it loses its color, and more importantly its main source of food. It becomes weak and more vulnerable to things like disease. If the water cools, corals can recover, but too long without the algae, and they’ll die. The corals and algae have a mutualistic relationship.The algae produce nutrients by using photosynthesis, many of which they pass to the cells of coral reefs. The corals in turn emit waste products in the form of ammonium, which the algae consume as a nutrient.
Benefits of Coral reefs
- Coral reefs provide habitat for a large variety of organisms.
- They are a source of income. They provide employment opportunities as local economies receive billions of dollars from visitors to reefs through diving tours, recreational fishing trips, and other businesses based near reef ecosystems.
- Coral reefs provide habitat for a large variety of species. Some of them contain pharmaceutical compounds that have potential for treatments for some of the world’s most prevalent and dangerous illnesses and diseases.
- It protect agricultural land, beaches and coastal housing as they reduce shoreline erosion by absorbing energy from the waves. The global net benefit of coastal protection by reefs is an estimated $9 billion per year.
Threats of Coral reef
Coral reefs are severely threatened by pollution, disease, and habitat destruction. Once coral reefs are damaged, they are less able to support the many creatures that inhabit them. When a coral reef supports fewer fish, plants, and animals, it also loses value as a tourist destination.
- Overfishing and destructive fishing
- Coral mining
- Ocean acidification : reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period of time, caused primarily by uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Coral reefs take carbon from sea water and algae and then turn it to calcium carbonate which is needed for the growth of their skeleton. Ocean acidification slows the rate of calcium carbonate production, thus slowing the growth of coral skeletons.
- Thermal stress : when the temperature in water changes, Symbiotic algae living within corals are expelled. Then the coral loses its color. It turns completely to white, which in turn loses its value as a tourist destination.
The governmental efforts often link with private groups that accept donations and volunteers, as well as state and local efforts to protect reefs. Global efforts also exist to protect reefs. We can also do something to protect coral reefs as we are the main reason for the climate change, thermal stress etc which are the threats to coral reefs.
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The algae produce nutrients by using photosynthesis, many of which they pass to the cells of coral reefs. The corals in turn emit waste products in the form of ammonium, which the algae consume as a nutrient.
Habitat for a large number of species, used as medicines, reduce shoreline erosion by absorbing energy from the waves and it is also a source of income.
Climate change, ocean acidification, thermal stress, coral mining, overfishing and destructive fishing.