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Why Coral Reefs Are Important

08 Sep 2021
Why Coral Reefs Are Important |

It’s very important for us to try and protect our planet, keep it safe and away from any danger. Coral Reefs are an ecosystem that’s maybe the most endangered right now due to a variety of reasons. Unlike other ecosystems that are very tough, these are not durable ecosystems. Instead, they are very easy to damage, and humans polluting the water are dealing a massive amount of damage to such an ecosystem because of that.

What are Coral Reefs?

Before we understand why we need to save the Coral Reef, we must understand what this really is. This is an ecosystem that contains a massive range of species. They interact with one another to protect their place where they live, while also keeping it safe. All of these creatures are staying on stony corals, which have hard skeletons. These are seen as the bedrock of the reef. The colonies are composed out of hundreds of thousands of living polyps. The important thing to note here is that polyps can draw dissolved calcium from the seawater, then they solidify it into the mineral structure that they use for skeletal support.

Even if the surface is indeed live coral, the truth is that the mass beneath is calcium carbonate skeleton. It’s very possible that mass is maybe decades old, so it’s not new. As a result, it can be very easy to break, and replacing it can take a really long time.

Polyps are slowly growing and that’s why we saw the expansion of these skeletal structures which ended up creating a large coral reef structure in the long term. With that being said, not all corals within a reef are actually stony corals. You can also encounter a vast array of corals out there, and it’s important to note they have different, specific features.

Hydrocorals are also known as fire corals, these are hydroids that have a calcareous, hard exoskeleton and stinging cells, these are causing a burning sensation upon touching them. Soft corals or octocorals are growing like fleshy plants, and they are not forming any type of calcium carbonate skeletal structures. That’[s how the coral reef is formed, and it’s a very important thing to focus on!

Then you have the antipatharians or the black corals. These are made out of soft coral, they are very durable and super dependable. That’s what makes them very powerful and easy to use as well. Some of the soft corals have their own zooxanthellae that helps them acquire energy and food. Others like the black corals don’t have any symbiotic relationship. That’s why it’s important to study the biotic factors coral reef, as it’s imperative to assess what kind of corals are there so you can protect them properly and without any possible concerns.

What lives on a coral reef?

Many aquatic creatures find themselves living on a coral reef, for a variety of reasons. This is where they can find food, and it’s also a great place to hide against predators. Obviously, there are a vast array of fish species that live on the coral reef. But this is also the place where you can find sea urchins, sea stars, crabs, clams, oysters, sponges and many others. It’s important to keep in mind that the coral reefs are also linked to mudflat, mangrove and seagrass communities. So it’s possible to see some of the compounds and creatures from those ecosystems coming in to the corals, sometimes. Either that, or the other way around.

Coral reef global warming effects

Are there any coral reef global warming repercussions? Absolutely, as we mentioned earlier this is a fragile ecosystem. It’s not the ecosystem that has a lot of power, and because of that you will find that these are the ecosystems where we see the effects of climate change.

The anthropogenic greenhouse emissions have increased the surface temperature of our planet with 1 degree Celsius since the pre industrial times. On top of that, the same issue brought coral bleaching events. That’s the reason why coral reefs are now some of the most threatened ecosystems on our planet at this particular time. The problem is that the more we pollute our planet, the more this makes things worse. That’s why we must address the problem firsthand and thing about the climate of the coral reef effects. If we don’t focus on that, then we will encounter problems in the long run. And these are the things that we need to take into consideration as much as possible here.

Ocean acidification

One of the issues that the coral reef ecosystem is dealing with is the ocean acidification. This is an issue that’s not widely popularized, even if it should be. The thing that we need to realize right now is that an uptake of the carbon dioxide has decreased the pH value of the ocean water. That means ocean water is slowly becoming more and more acidic.

The main reason why this happens is because we are burning the fossil fuels. Normally, ocean or sea water is normally slightly basic, so it has a pH of over 7, only a little bit. However, ocean acidification makes it more acidic.

There are obvious repercussions. The food web for coral reef has changed quite a bit, since some creatures can’t live in acidic waters. On top of that, there’s a lower production of shellfish shells. Also, calcium carbonate shelled organisms are not able to reproduce under the acidotic waters, which can become a severe problem to deal with at this particular time.

Where can you find coral reefs?

These are spread all over the world, but there are some formations that have become extremely popular and a vacation spot. You can find coral reefs in 7 US states like Hawaii, Virgin Islands, Florida, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. They can also be found in Australia, with the Great Reef Barrier being a very good example to take into consideration.

Which are the main threats to the coral reef?

Believe it or not, there are threats coming in from everywhere, and the coral reefs can be affected by a broad range of potential issues, as you might imagine.

  • One of the main problems is physical damage or destruction. This comes from a multitude of factors, these range from recreational misuse, boat anchors, groundings, destructive fishing gear and practices, quarrying, dredging, coastal development and many others.
  • Pollution is another major issue endangering corals. It’s something prevalent that has been a problem for a very long time, and it continues to be a severe issue at this particular time. sedimentation is a stressor for the recovery and existence of coral habitats. Sediment interferes with the coral ability to grow, feed and reproduce properly, which is something to keep in mind.
  • Toxic substances like chemicals, pesticides and metals are used in sunscreen, for mining activities, they can also be found in landfills. More often than not, you will end up with these compounds inside our waters, and that’s when they can end up being a severe issue. Which is why we must address the issue appropriately. Many of these things, especially metals like PCBs, mercy or lead, can end up damaging the environment in more ways than we might imagine. Which is why we must address it as quickly as possible, otherwise this becomes a major issue to deal with.
  • Plastics are also a huge issue. Unfortunately people tend to generate a lot of plastic waste, especially from single use plastics. These are not getting back into nature unless 400+ years pass, so they can easily be consumed by reef animals that see it as their food. Reef animals end up dying due to ingesting this, and it becomes a huge issue for years and years to come. That’s why we must tackle and address this quickly, because removing plastics or at least using more sustainable products can indeed make a difference. And it’s not that expensive either, which is what matters the most.
  • Overfishing is another major issue, as this helps lower the amount of fish that would normally keep the coral reef safe. They are an integral part of the ecosystem, so whenever you mess up with the integrity of an ecosystem, disaster can arise and you have to tackle that the best way that you possibly can.
  • Then there’s also coral harvesting, which has been happening for a very long time. These are the threats to coral reef that might not seem apparent at first, but which are indeed a severe problem and it can only get worse in the long run. You want to address that as much as possible, and the potential can indeed be second to none every time.

These are only a few of the threats of coral reef that we need to know about. Coral bleaching, ocean acidification, things like the sea water raising more than they should and having more tropical storms are all affecting the coral reefs. Even the most insignificant things can become significant, and that’s why we want to address the situation the best way that we possibly can.

Facts on the coral reef

  • Corals are animals, they are not plants. You can find soft and hard varieties, and they all live in colonies. So even if you might think that coral reefs are actually made out of plants, that’s not the case. They are categorized as animals, which is certainly something to take into consideration as much as possible.
  • Coral reefs need sunlight to grow. That’s why they grow in shallow waters under 70 meters deep, because they are depending on the sunlight to help them grow.
  • Believe it or not, around 500 million people or more actively rely on coral reefs for food. What this means is that half a billion people consume fish and other sea food found near or within coral reefs.
  • Around ¼ of all marine species call coral reefs their home. Yes, that’s true, 25% of the marine life is living in coral reefs. Not only that, but you can find around 4000 different species of fish in the coral reefs, which says a lot about this location and the overall diversity that provides.
  • Too much heat will harm the coral reef. If the ocean is very warm or the heat is uncontrollable, then corals will expel algae. That means they are turning white, which is known as coral bleaching. They even try to emit some vibrant colors, all in an effort to survive the high ocean temperatures.
  • One thing to note about coral reefs is that they are acting as a barrier during storms. They actively become a buffer and their focus is to slow down water in order to avoid any possible erosion. They are indeed helping coastal regions stay safe, otherwise they can be obliterated by storms.
  • They clean the water they are in. You will always notice that most coral reefs are actually cleaning the water and they feed on the particles found in the ocean. It’s a visual delight, but also a way to show that they are indeed removing unwanted particles from the water. It’s unlike anything that you may find out there.
  • Some of the oldest coral reefs are dating from around 240 million years ago. The ones we can find today can be 5000 or 10000 years old, but many tend to live just a couple of years. It all depends on how we are taking care of them.

Coral reef benefits

Why do we need coral reefs? There are a variety of reasons why we need to focus on protecting and keeping the coral reefs safe. Here are some of the main ones:

  • They are a habitat for more than 1 million aquatic species. Without coral reefs we would lose most if not all of those animals and plants.
  • On top of that, coral reefs are known to be a major source of income, since they deliver billions of dollars in jobs for more than 100 countries from all over the world.
  • Coral reefs are a source of food for the people living near coral reefs. As we mentioned earlier, around 1500 million people rely on corals for their daily food.
  • They help protect the coastal cities, beaches and communities, which is extremely important to keep in mind.
  • The coral reef is also a source for many compounds that can be used to treat various illnesses from all over the world.

What can you do in order to protect coral reefs?

Is there a way for us to get involved and make a difference as we start to protect coral reefs? Absolutely, and there are a variety of things to achieve that!

  • Live a more sustainable life. Finding ways to protect the environment and not damage coral reefs is extremely important. It’s important to reuse items rather than throw them and buy new ones. Also, buy only what’s important and you actively use, because the manufacturing process for new items is polluting the environment and coral reefs as well.
  • Stop relying on single use plastics. Find alternatives that last for a very long time. On top of that, you want to avoid littering. Make sure that you recycle most if not all the items that you use., This keeps the environment safe, and it also shows that you are morally responsible.
  • If you visit coral reefs, don’t step on them. Physical damage from tourists is one of those things that end up damaging coral reefs, and they take a long time to regenerate. These structures aren’t really built to regenerate fast, so if you step on the coral reefs, you can end up causing a lot of damage.
  • Also, avoid stirring the sediment. Corals are unable to photosynthesize, and that also leads to disease spreading through them. That’s why you want to address the situation and ensure it all works exactly the way you want, without any challenges or worries.
  • Don’t buy souvenirs made out of corals. They might look great, but what you are doing is you are encouraging people that damage coral reefs to just continue doing it again.
  • Donate to various nonprofits whose focus is to help and preserve coral reefs. This way you can get actively involved into preserving the coral reef and making sure that it’s fully protected against any possible problems that might appear.


Making sure that we protect the coral reef is very important, since this is a crucial ecosystem that can have major repercussions. It’s imperative for us to find a way to take action and protect the very fragile coral reef. Otherwise this will be an ecosystem that will perish sooner rather than later. We need to do everything in our power in order to start changing our lives, since living sustainably and protecting the environment is the right way to save our planet. If not, coral reefs will start perishing in front of our eyes.

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