Coral hard skeletons that they produce are used

Coral reefs aredefined as being the “rainforest” of the ocean. According to Jeff Orlowski, afilmmaker on ocean documentaries, about a quarter of all marine life in theocean is spends part of its life cycle on a coral reef. They are more than justone of the ocean’s many beautiful phenomenon’s; they are ecosystems, a biological communityof interacting organisms and their physical environment. But why should wecare about them? The Coral Reefs are a vital source in keeping the biosphereclean and contribute to beach formation. However, it is up to us to helpprotect them so they can continue flourishing.

 Coral Reefs are rock-like structures that arecomposed of limy skeletons by coral organisms and algae. At first sight, thereefs appear to be beautiful underwater structures that are built from stone,but that is far from the case. If you look closely into them, you can see thatthey are actually composed of millions of living organism resting at the top ofancestral skeletons. The majority of these organisms are the skeletons ofpolyps, which constantly secrete calcium carbonate to build protectiveskeletons. The hard skeletons that they produce are used for protection andsupport, and links its skeleton to surrounding skeletons. What this does, is thatit creates one enormous coral colony. Polyps are consistently always formingnew and different skeletons at their base and sides. When they do this, theyextend upward and outward from the coral colony center, leaving the oldskeletons at the bottom.

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New polyps can be created, and old ones die off, but asthe whole colony continues to grow. Thus, most of the structure of a singlecoral colony is made up of dead skeletal material. Theprocess of growing the skeleton consumes a lot of energy, which is provided bythe algae living in the corals’ tissues. The presence of one-celled algae living within thebodies of the tiny coral assists by producing oxygen and help the coral removeits wastes. According to Peggy Fong, the algae supply the coral with glucose,glycerol, and amino acids, which are the products of photosynthesis.The coraluses these products to make proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and producecalcium carbonate. “The relationship between the algae and coral polypfacilitates a tight recycling of nutrients in nutrient-poor tropical waters.

Infact, as much as 90 percent of the organic material photosynthetically producedby the zooxanthellae is transferred to the host coral tissue.” (Fong, 2010)Besides, providingenergy to the reefs, algae also plays a role in the appearance of coral reefs. The physical attributes of coral reefs, such as itspigmented color comes from the symbiotic algae that lives inside of them. Inaddition, algae and other organisms can form tables, pillars, spirals, wires,staghorns, and brain coral.

These are all rigid structures with living polyps,but they live in different places and require different conditions. As thealgae and different organisms die their old shells are incorporated into thereef structure and contribute to the land building of the reefs. As the yearsgo by, the residue of these organisms articulates which inevitably piles uptogether to form giant coral reefs that create the basis for twenty five percentof all ocean life even though they are only one percent of the area of theocean.

There are manydifferent types of coral reefs and the one that is the most predominantly foundin oceans, are barrier coral reefs. These reefs are usually found near coastlines. According to Mark Spanding, “barrier reefs are usually older structuresrising up from a deeper base at some distance from the shore, with a lagoonseparating them from the coast. Some have their origins as fringing reefs onshelving coastlines, but develop when the coastline on which they are growingsubsides or is flooded by rising sea levels.” (Spalding, 2001) Because of their position in relationto the landmasses, some of them form natural, protective walls for coasts. Thewalls act as fortresses, diminishing the destructive forces of the waves asthey pound the shore during storms or times of high tides. In addition, theyalso prevent erosion, damage to coastal sea life, coral reefs, and the homes ofpeople. In addition, thereis also Atoll reefs which are reefs that are circular and enclose a widelagoon.

They can be found away from the continental shelf that rise from theabyssal floors of the ocean to just beneath high-tide level. According to,Edward Winterer, “The characteristic features of an atoll include a reef rim,from 100 to 500 m across, which is mainly awash at high tide, and flattishislands, which remain a few meters above sea level and on which people maylive.” (Gillespie, 2009)  These reefs are mainly found within the Pacific Ocean Indianocean and are very rare elsewhere, but there are few in the Caribbean. Coralreefs serve as homes, nurseries, feeding grounds, and gathering places forthousands of kinds of living things such as the pyramid bluefish. The greatvariety of organisms found among the coral reefs makes them the most biodiversemarine ecosystems on the planet. Some reefs are homes to types of organismsthat have been in existence for thousands of years. According to, Callum M.

Roberts, “Coral reefs support many diverse fish communities that can range upto 500-700 species in the Caribbean and Central Pacific, to over 3,000 speciesin the Philippines and Indonesia.” (Roberts, 1987)  Afew of the species that inhabit coral reefs are the following but certainly notlimited to, turtles, sharks, eels, crabs, shrimps, urchins, and sponges. These ecosystemscan assist massive populations of fish because most of the residents of reefsare specialized feeders.

If fish competed with one another for food, many wouldbe driven away by hunger. Reef fish have been able to adapt feeding strategiesthat allow each species to fill a specific role in the community. One strategyinvolves feeding at different times. For example, two different species of fishthat eat the same food can share the supply if one feeds at night and the otherduring the day. In addition, reef fish have learned by eating in differentsections of the habitat. Some bottom feeders dine on organisms living justbelow the sand and sediment.

A massive colony of fish actually eats the sandand sediment, filters out the food, then releases the soil back into theenvironment. A few species of fish have found niches for themselves by feedingon organisms that nothing else wants to eat. Some of these dine on sponges orurchins. Coral reefs support a large number and greater diversity of fish thanany other aquatic habitat, but why should we care?There are manyecosystem benefits of coral reefs, that directly affect humans. These brightlycolored communities are founded in over 100 countries, including but notlimited to China, Japan, Mexico, and Belize. About one sixth of the world’sshores are protected by coral reefs. According to, “Reefs naturally formbarriers and thus inevitably provide some shore protection. At least 70-90percent of the energy of wind-generated waves is absorbed during hurricanes andtropical storms.

In a tsunami, the buffering capacity of reefs and mangroves ismore variable and often reduced because of the different structure and form ofthe waves.” (Wells, 2007) Coral reefs helpkeep the Earth’s biosphere, the part of the planet where living things arefound, in balance. One of the coral reefs important functions is maintainingnormal levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. At the point where theatmosphere meets the sea, carob dioxide and other gases from the air dissolvein the ocean water. In places where coral reefs exist, much of this dissolvedcarbon dioxide is removed from the water by coral organisms. The organisms thenuse the gas to build calcium carbonate, or limestone skeletons. As theskeletons-biding proceeds, levels of the dissolved gas in the ocean waterdecrease, permitting more Carbon Dioxide to enter the water from theatmosphere.

For this reason, reefs act as carbon “sinks”. Coral Reefs alsocontribute to beach formation. Natural forces break off pieces of the reef andgrind them into grains of sand. As wind and water strike the reef, they chipaway at the skeletal structures of reef animals, eroding them into smallpieces. Predators also loosen reef material by nibbling on it to get at choicefoods. Even some of the plants and animals that grow on reefs erode them.

Oncedislodged, small particles of the reef are tossed and crushed by waves untilthey form fine particles of sand. Beaches created primarily by erosion of coralare very white. Barbados, an island in the West Indies, is one of hundreds ofislands built on coral and famous for its white beaches. The reefs are affectedby some natural and some human-activity events. Storms and changes in weathercan alter the conditions of seawater around coral reefs, but most coral damageis the result of human activity. Exploitation of reefs, overfishing, increasedrates of sedimentation in the water, and increased levels of nutrients in waterare some of the most recent causes of coral death, but the chief problemappears to be global warming. Global Warming raises temperatures in the ocean’swaters. Since coral animals can only live within a narrow range oftemperatures, every change is fatal to them.

Environmentalawareness is critical to keep the world’s coral reef populations healthy and inorder to do so, it is important to realize all the factors that put the reefsin danger. First of all, coral reefs are not tolerant of changes in thephysical conditions around them. Fluctuations in temperature, salinity, or theclarity of water can cause stress and damage.

Since 1980, Scientists havenoticed that large sections of coral reefs have undergone bleaching. When thishappens, the algae living in their tissues leave. According to Jason Buchheim,”Bleaching, or the paling of zooxanthellate invertebrates, occurs when thedensities of zooxanthellae decline and the concentration of photosyntheticpigments within the zooxanthellae fall. When corals bleach they commonly lose60-90% of their zooxanthellae and each zooxanthella may lose 50-80% of itsphotosynthetic pigments.” (Buchheim, 2013) If the stressors are short term, thealgae often return to their hosts and the corals survive however if the stressis serious, the coral animals dies. This can cause in reduced growth rates,decreased reproductive capacity, and affect the species that depend on them.In addition, theactivities of people near reefs dramatically affect them. As communities onnearby islands and coasts increase in size, homes, school, etc.

Theconstruction of buildings, loosens the soil and increases rates of erosion. Assoil and sediment enter the clear, reef waters, the materials cloud the water,reducing the light that can reach the corals and their single-celled algae. Itis key, to increase public awareness to realize that simple things we do, harmscoral reefs. Marine scientists are calling for an immediate reduction in thelevels of greenhouse gas emissions and marine pollution. In addition, reservesof protected marine areas are being established. Some reserves containartificial reefs made of cement blocks or old tires, and these structures seemto help replenish populations of reef fish. Both national and internationalefforts have been launched to protect these ecosystems.

The Global Coral ReefMonitoring Network, staffed by the United Nations and several other nationalgovernments, keep an eye on the condition of reeds worldwide. When I think aboutour mother Earth I think about it’s beautiful oceans that we have yet to finishdiscovering, but I am very ignorant because I contribute in being part of thereason why coral reefs are declining. I sometimes leave the water faucet on fortoo long, I drive a car that that emits fossil fuels into the air, or I forgetto throw away a wrapper; small things like this contribute to the decline ofcoral reefs. There is a litany of different things we can do to help conservereefs and some of them are to conserve the water we use, dispose of our trashproperly, and be cautious of what we pour down the drain.

Coral reefs serve asone of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world where thousands or organisminhabit it. However, they play a vital role in keeping our biosphere safe andcreate beaches. If we want to continue to have polyps and algae create thesephenomenal landscapes, we need to take action against global warming and helpprotect our mother Earth.

     

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