Neature Talk: Coral Reefs

December 22, 2020


Devon Miller

While coral reefs once occupied much more of the ocean floor, they now cover around one percent, but still are home to the highest biodiverse population of living creatures on our planet. With around 25% of all marine creatures relying on coral reefs as their home, it is easy to see how essential these reefs are to the ocean ecosystem.

These spectacular reefs are able to support higher marine biodiversity better than any other ecosystem in the world. Interestingly, coral reefs do more for the environment than just provide habitat for these marine creatures. Coral reefs, while providing a home to many animals, are also essential to the protection of shorelines and coasts from devastating hurricanes and other ocean related natural disasters.

What many are unaware of is that coral is a living creature. Coral participate in a symbiotic relationship with specific algae types. National Geographic explains, “The soft polyps inside the hard parts of corals are naturally translucent and get their famously vibrant color from algae living inside them.” When water temperature rises too high, or pollution stresses the coral, the coral expels the algae in a process called coral bleaching. While the coral is not dead when it becomes bleached, it becomes highly immunocompromised, and will eventually die from starvation or disease. 

In 2016, a third of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in our oceans, was killed. This phenomenon was caused by unusually warm water temperature and a high concentration of pollution in the waters around the reef. Without reefs, millions of animals would be without a home in our oceans. 

Luckily, several coral reef conservation projects have been started and some have been seen to be successful in helping repopulate the coral reefs. If you want to help coral reefs right where you live, the best things to do would be to, reduce your use of non recyclable goods, avoid fertilizers and pesticides that will further pollute our waters, try to lower your carbon emission, this could mean biking to work rather than driving, or purchasing an electric car rather than diesel or gasoline.  

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