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What You Need To Know About Coral Reefs

Environment aestaff Comments15 Nov, 2017

As you already know, the ocean is a mysterious and interesting place, with creatures, species, and organisms calling the water home. Coral is one of those organisms. In fact, coral is a living thing, not just colorful sea plants as many people may believe.

Sadly, coral is dying. The issues with our ecosystem are causing the coral around the world to get stressed and die. According to an article from Independent, about half of the world’s coral reefs have died in the last 30 years. Saving the rest of the coral reefs is important to more than just sea life.

At Atlantic Edge Scuba, we love the ocean and we want to do what we can to help save it. The starting point is getting people informed on the issue. Scuba diving is a fun and beautiful experience. But as the coral reefs die, the ocean will become less active and colorful. While there are still beautiful places in the ocean that can be explored, the coral is what supports about 25 percent of all marine life, according to National Geographic.

To help you learn more about coral and hopefully make even the smallest contribution to saving them, we will give you some of the most interesting facts about coral and how they help our planet!

Behind The Community

Coral is a living thing, a small community of life made up of different parts. Coral are made up of tiny animals called polyps. A video on the National Geographic's article gives the breakdown of the organism. Polyps can range in size from as small as a pinhead to about the size of a basketball. The polyp is made up of a soft body, a mouth with stinging tentacle, and calicles, which are limestone skeletons which give the polyp support. Polyp calicles join together to create a colony which acts as a single organism. These colonies are was create coral and as they grow and join together with other colonies, they create coral reefs.

A barrier reef is a coral reef that separates the shallow waters along shores from the open ocean. This wall in the ocean also helps sea plants and marine life to survive. But they are not just for oceans, according to Awesome Ocean, coral reefs help to protect the coastline for storms.

Where They Grow

Coral covers only about one percent of the ocean floor, and they are found in tropical and subtropical waters. Coral grows less than 150 feet from the surface but they can extend deeper, growing about 450 feet below the surface.

According to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, reefs will generally grow where the wave patterns and currents are stronger. This is because these stronger waves bring more food for the ecosystem that create the reef’s structure.

The Great Barrier Reef

Everyone has, hopefully, heard of the Great Barrier Reef in Austrailia. It is the world's largest reef and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. This barrier reef alone is made up of more than 2,900 individual reefs, according to the Awesome Ocean article. But those are not the coolest facts about this massive reef.

The Great Barrier Reef has been growing for year, and these individual reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef have been growing for about five to 10,000 years. This old soul stretches 1,400 miles across the ocean floor on the edge of Australia. In fact, it is so large that it can be seen from outer space. According to Great Barrier Reef,  these are a few ways to compare the size of the Great Barrier Reef:

  • It is greater in size than Holland, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland combined.

  • It is about the size of Texas.

  • If is about the same area Italy, Germany, Japan, or Malaysia.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most visited reefs in the world, which is understandable. While it may be obvious that this amazing place is visited often, it may come as a surprise to know how many species actually call the Great Barrier Reef home.

According to WWF, the Great Barrier Reef is home to more than 1,500 species of fish. But it doesn’t end there. It is also home to 134 species of sharks and rays, 411 types of hard coral, a third of the world’s soft coral, six of the seven species of threatened marine turtles, and more than 30 species of marine mammals. This amazing habitat is home to endangered species and supports a quarter of all marine life, making saving it even more important.

The Issue

Like we said before, more than half of the world’s coral reefs have died in the last 30 years. It is now our job to save the rest of it. The Independent article states that scientists believe that even if we can halt global warming now, about 90 percent of the corals would die by 2050. This is an issue that is more severe than most people think. And perhaps it is because we don’t see the coral everyday—out of sight out of mind.

Coral reefs create some of the oxygen we breathe and help protect us from the storms on the coast. Human also need coral reefs, this is no longer just about sea life. The fishing and tourism industries rely on coral reefs, as a habitat for many different fish species and other marine life.

The Independent article mentions another unique benefit of coral reefs—they help with medical research. Another article from Mother Nature Network, mentions that coral reefs have been an important factor in the development of new medicines. Helping with many different things including cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and other viruses.

A rise in the temperature of the ocean is what is harming the coral, even a small temperature change, about 1.8 to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, can cause coral to expel an algae that is part of the process of “bleaching”. This is the process of coral leaving their white skeletons visible.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states that coral bleaching is “When corals are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white.” When coral is bleached, it is not dead and it can survive through a bleaching event, but they are more like to die when they are bleached.

The U.S. lost half of the coral reefs in the Caribbean in 2005 due to a massive bleaching event, this happened in one year. This is how drastically we are losing the coral reefs.

At Atlantic Edge Scuba, we obviously care about the ocean and the rest of our ecosystem. There are many reasons to save the coral and scuba diving is only one of those reasons. Learn more about the current coral reef problems and find out how to help. Learn more about our company and figure out how you can help!


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