We will understand in detail about why coral reefs are important to us.
Table of Contents
What are Corals?
Corals are the marine invertebrate organisms that belong to class Anthozoa. Corals look hard stony substance that lives in colonies of numerous identical individual polyps. Coral polyps are small and soft organisms that have a solid base made up of limestone skeleton known as calicle. These skeleton forms the shape of coral reefs.
When a polyp attaches to a rock on the seafloor, it starts dividing into many clones transforming into a reef. These polyps start connecting each other, forming their own colony, and acts as an individual organism.
Coral polyps look very beautiful, having different color combinations, but actually, they are semi-transparent. Corals get their beautiful colors from host algae, known as zooxanthellae.
For nutrition, corals mostly depend on the by-product of the algal photosynthesis process. Sometimes they use their tentacles to grab zooplanktons and even some small fishes.
Most of the sea-bed area is covered with coral, which not only enhances the beauty of marine life but also plays an essential role in marine ecology. Here you will get to know little more about the stunning looking creature of the marine ecosystem.
What Are Coral Reefs?
Coral reefs usually live in clear, tropical oceans. They are formed in sea beds almost 150 feet deep from the surface because they need sunlight to live.
Coral reefs survive in water, having a temperature between 20 and 28 degrees Celsius. That is why coral reefs are often seen along the Eastern shores of the land and where the wave actions are quite high. The waves bring food & oxygen needed for coral reefs to survive. The waves also help to prevent the accumulation of sediments on coral reefs.
Coral reefs play an essential role in the marine food chain. The Sun acts as an energy source for coral reefs. The phytoplankton, zooxanthellae, and other plants prepare food through the photosynthesis process. The coral reefs fulfill its food nutrient requirement from these phytoplankton’s and zooxanthellae. Different types of sea creatures take shelter in coral reefs such as jellyfish, rays, sponges, worms, lobsters, octopus, snail, urchin, seal, starfish, shrimps, other small fishes, etc.
Corals reefs are found in different colors such as white, pink, blue, purple, red, green, orange, etc. Coral reefs are found in various forms. Commonly, there are three types of coral reefs as –
- Fringing coral reefs
Fringing coral reefs are usually found along seashores of continents & islands. This type of coral reef is generally found in Hawaii & Caribbean seas.
- Barrier coral reefs
Barrier reefs are found far away from the seashores. These coral reefs are quite common in Indo-Pacific oceans and the Caribbean Sea. Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef found in Australia, which is almost 1200 miles longer.
- Atolls corals
Atolls are ring-shaped massive coral reefs surrounding a central lagoon. They are commonly found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
Are Corals Animals or Plants?
Coral looks like rocks from its hard appearance, and sometimes it also seems like plants because of it taking roots attached to the seafloor. Despite plant-like features, corals do not make their own food. They depend on zooxanthellae (algae) for its food requirement. In return, corals help the algae to remove sediments from its surface and to supply organic products for the photosynthesis process. Well, corals neither rocks nor these are plants. Corals are actually animals.
The corals are made up of numerous small animals known as polyps. Each coral polyp is an invertebrate and sized almost equals to a pinhead. Each polyp contains numerous tentacles. The polyps take calcium carbonate from seawater to construct its hard-skeletal cover to protect its soft inside body.
How do Coral Reefs Form?
The coral species vary in terms of the reproduction cycle. Some coral species reproduce once in a year, whereas some others reproduce twice a year. Most of the coral species spawn through releasing an egg into the water; however, the duration of spawning varies from one species to another.
At first, a larva forms when an egg meets with a sperm. The coral reefs start forming when the baby coral floats on water to search for a suitable place to attach. These corals grow and transform into any one of these characteristic structures- fringing, barrier, or atoll.
Why Coral Reef is Important?
- Provide shelter to various species
Coral reefs provide food and safe shelter to many species of water kingdom such as shrimps, small fishes, and many other predators.
- Protects the coastal areas from heavy water currents
Coral reefs play an essential role in slowing down the flow of water waves near coasts. One of the interesting facts is that the corals are more likely to found in the area where the ocean waves are quite high.
- Coral reefs act as a natural water filtration system
Coral reefs cannot survive in misty and polluted water. This is why they consume particles mixed with ocean water and naturally filters the water. Clean and clear water help to survive coral for long life and it also helps to make the beaches more attractive.
- Coral reefs help to control the carbon level of the water
Corals limestone skeleton is made up of the ocean’s processing of carbon present in the water. Without the presence of corals in the sea, the amount of carbon dioxide increases up to the optimal level in the ocean water. The increased level of carbon dioxide in ocean water may harm the other creatures of the marine ecosystem.
- Corals provide food to us
Many people consume fishes and other seafood. Corals give food to millions of humans in the form of fishes and other sea creatures. Hence corals are vital to fulfilling the seafood requirement of humans.
- Importance for the tourism industry
Coral reefs are significant for the tourism industry. Reefs are one of the most attractions that attract tourists to visit beaches. The tourism industry provides an excellent source of income. This is why they take the protection of beaches on top priority so that more tourists come to visit these beaches every year.
How to Preserve Coral Reefs?
Behave like a responsible tourist
- We should behave like a responsible tourist. We should not enter our boats in the area of coral reefs to avoid accidental damages to coral reefs.
- Since corals are fragile and non-mobile creatures, we should not touch them to cause any harm.
- Do not dispose of wastes on the beaches or in ocean water because it will ultimately come in contact with the coral reefs causing damages to its fragility.
Proper disposal and recycling of waste
- Improper disposal of waste and garbage is affecting the marine ecosystem very severely that includes coral reefs as well. Hence, we must recycle the trash at home and follow the concept of 3 Rs (recycle, reuse, and reduce).
- Do not allow the waste to enter into the water stream in any improper way to avoid water pollution.
By reducing the use of fertilizers
- The fertilizers contain various nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, etc. When these nutrients washed into waterways, it ultimately ends up entering into oceans. These nutrients change the entire chemistry of the ocean water that affects the structures, colors, and fragility of the coral reefs.
Try to use Eco-friendly transportation modes
- The number of vehicles has increased a lot from the past few years (especially cars). The emission from the vehicles (greenhouse gases) is causing acidification of ocean water. As a result, the temperature of ocean water is increasing simultaneously.
- The acidic water is causing complications in the growth of coral reefs. The temperature increase of ocean water is also responsible for coral bleaching to greater extents.
Try to save energy at the individual level
- We all know how important it is to save energy. You also can contribute at a personal level by just implementing a few changes in your lifestyle. For example- switch to energy-efficient products like LED bulbs, switch off the lights and other electric appliances when not in use, etc.
Hopefully, this article has helped you to understand the importance of coral reefs to biodiversity. We should understand our responsibility towards this endangered species of the marine ecosystem. Hence, should take the necessary preventive measures to protect coral reefs of world oceans.