Coral reefs are communities to the sea and home to many living creatures and different types of organisms, as well as about one-fourth of the oceans population. Coral reefs are made up of animals called polyps that will remain in one place, acting as the main structure of the reef itself, these animals have a hard almost skeleton like structure. Scientists who study coral reefs have categorized them into three different types of reefs; Barrier reefs, Atolls, and Fringing reefs.
Coral reefs are put into these categories based on their size, shaped and close proximity to land. Although corals are grouped together, “An individual coral is known as a polyp, a very small and simple organism consisting mostly of a stomach topped by a tentacle-bearing mouth” (NOAA CORIS). These tentacles are extended at night and are used to sting and ingest small organisms such a plankton. Living with these polyps are many other species of under sea creatures from fish and invertebrates to microorganisms and algae.
There are about six thousand different species known to live in these coral colonies among them are: sea fans, sea pansies, and anemones. Overtime, because the polyp excretes a calcium carbonates, skeletons of the many coral colonies will begin to build over time, making the structure of the coral reef. Like plants they remain in one place and receive some of their energy from the sun, which is why they found in shallow areas.
Corals reefs are mostly found in tropical or semi-tropical waters, where the temperature does not fall below eighteen degrees celsius for a long period of time. Most reefs can tolerate temperature as high a forty degrees celsius for an extended period of time. They also require large amount of salt in their water ranging from between 32-42 parts per thousand. As well as salt, they also need to be in fairly clear waters to allow light to provide energy, the deeper the coral reef goes, the less creatures are found living in them.
High levels of suspended sediments can smother the colonies to death. Even though there are a large amount of coral reefs spread out over the globe when you put them together there are not very many of them. “Despite how important coral reefs are to life in the ocean, all of them in the world add up to less than one percent of the sea floor – an area about the size of France” (Defenders. org). Being such an important part of the oceans ecosystem, it’s surprising that they take up such a small amount of space on the ocean floor.
Light is an important factor in the growth and sustainability of these ecosystems. Without light these reefs won’t be able to grow and prosper, without these reefs waves that are hitting the shores would be much higher and powerful, coral reefs provide a barrier that helps protect the large amount of energy that comes from waves. Off the north east coast of Australia lies the largest coral reef in the world, known as the “Great Barrier Reef” (GreatBarrierReef. rg) The Great Barrier Reef is approximately 1800 miles long, and holds the largest array of corals with over 1500 different species that live there. Coral Reefs protect the shorelines from larges waves energy. according to NOAA, Coral Reefs Protect Coastlines. “Up to 90 percent of the energy from wind generated waves is absorbed by reefs…” With help from Coral reefs a lot of the destruction that could have happened on these residences is prevented with the help of these reefs .
“Costal storms account for 71 percent of recent U. S. disaster losses annually” (NOAA, Coral Reefs Protect). Without these costal communities the disaster rate would go up in these areas where they reside, especially because of how many people live in these areas as well as a large economic gain that they get from these reefs, because they have become tourist attractions. However, not only do these structures provide a sort of barrier between the ocean and the shore but they also provide shelter for over hundreds of different fish.
There are many different coral reefs ranging in many different sizes miles apart, because they are found in more tropical environments they are found on tropical islands such as Hawaii, Florida, the Bahamas, Caribbean, and the Red Sea. There are also many different reefs of the coast of northeastern South America. There are smaller reefs located in the tropical eastern atlantic along the coast of southern Brazil. There are different types of coral reefs that are found in various places in the water depending on how far from the shore they and how deep under water hey are.
These reefs can range not only in size but where they are in lagoons in comparison to how close to the sediment they are. Some of the smaller reefs are knob reefs and patch and pinnacle reefs, although the size difference between the two is large, they are still considered very small. both ranging between three feet and twenty feet high for the both of them. Both of these reefs are relatively close to the sediment, Patch and Pinnacle reefs being higher above it than Knob reefs who reside in small groups rising out of the sediment.
These reefs aren’t as popular as other reefs such as the Rim reefs that are very popular among tourists because of how much clearer the water is because they are not as close to the sediment. These reefs are vital tools to the shore as they are the ones that protect land masses. There are other coral reefs in the bermuda that can’t be studied because of how deep they are. according to Coral Reefs of Bermuda, “These areas are too deep for anyone but highly trained SCUBA divers to observe”.
This is interesting because although we know they are there and they range between hard and soft corals we are not sure what else may lie down in there. The number of various reefs that make up reefs such as the Great barrier reef and other reefs in places such as bermuda is very large and seemingly almost never ending, but every single reef represents a different aspect of the reefs and holds different life forms based on where they are. Protecting these reefs has become a vital necessity to us as of today, there are many things that threaten the life and future of these reefs.
If these reefs become extinct then it will not only effect the ocean but it will effect our economy as well because coral reefs are home to hundreds of different species that live there. Over the past few years there has been a rise in tourism. Yes, these reefs are beautiful and intriguing but careless acts of snorkeling, fishing, and boating are becoming hazards to this vital ecosystem. “Some tourist resorts and infrastructure have been built directly on top of reefs and some resorts empty their sewage or other wastes directly into water surrounding coral reefs” (WWF.
Panda. org). This type of carelessness is destroying these structures as well as hundreds and thousands of precious wild life. When the water that lives within these corals get too high in nutrients and polluted will cause them to die or grow out of control. The steps that are being taken to maintain these precious reefs over the last few years has become more of an issue since the outbreak of pollution, heavy tourism, and over fishing on the rise this has become a big issue. Over the last few years there has also been a large rise in climate causing the oceans to heat up.
The oceans heating up cause the carbon dioxide in the water to rise causing a bleaching effect on the coral, which is extremely dangerous because it prevents the coral from growing and causes them to calcify. This issue has caused many conservationist to worry about the future of reefs. According to National Geographic this is becoming a large problem because of how long it takes coral to actually mature. “That spells trouble for corals, which often take 15 years to reach sexual maturity and reproduce only once a year” (As Oceans Heat Up, a Race to Save World’s Coral Reefs).
National Geographic along with other programs have started many conservations and programs to help slow down the dying rate of the reefs. A biological oceanographer at the University of Miami gave this quote to National Geographic, “So a lot of our efforts are to give first aid to buy time until we can fix the problem, like CO2 [levels]. We can make a difference. It’s not that hard” (As Oceans Heat Up, A Race to Save World’s Coral Reefs). This just shows that with everyone’s help we can all change the future of these reefs.