Coral reefs

Have you ever been curious about the fascinating world of corals? Well, corals turn out to be truly unique and mysterious creatures due to the reasons that they are unable to move, they do have mouths, but they can only eat tiny, microscopic things in the water called zooplankton, yet corals serve as habitats for many marine animals and the reefs also protect islands from storms by acting as a barricade against high waves. Coral reefs are found in over 100 countries around the world brightening up the oceans with their vibrant and popping colors. Sadly, many corals are perishing due to the ongoing climate crisis, and this is a noticeably big issue for not only the ocean habitat but for us humans too. If corals become extinct, then although it may not seem like it, it could change the earth forever. That is why we need to act and educate ourselves more about coral reefs so we can understand their struggles and help them out so they can continue impacting the world positively. Before we can even help them ,we must start at the beginning and understand how these mysterious living structures are formed.

Coral reefs begin their life when swimming and floating coral larvae attach to submerged rocks or other hard surfaces along the edge of islands. Deceased organisms such as oysters, clams, and conchs also
serve as foundations for coral to start their journeys on. From there, they suction themselves to their chosen surface and begin to slowly develop. Corals often choose living spots nearby other corals which
causes coral reefs to form. A reason why they do this is, so they feel more protected from other ocean
inhabitants. In the world, there are three distinct types of coral reefs: fringing, barrier, and atoll they all
have some similarities since they all grow according to waves, light, and temperature to create their own
unique forms. For example, some corals over time, build up erosion from waves and these erosions cause peculiar patterns to form on the surface of some corals. Natural factors such as those, make each coral stand out with their unique differences and colors. Another interesting fact about coral is that a singular coral can grow up to be ten meters tall and can stretch to be forty kilometers wide. Some corals can take up to 30,000,000 years to reach their full height and length. When corals reach their full capacity, they become very strong and solid and act as a fence for nearby ocean side communities, protecting the villages from strong and threatening waves during hurricanes and various other storms.

Many people assume that corals go to sleep at night to recharge so they can be strong for a new day of living. Nonetheless, for most corals that is not the case. All tropical corals are awake and thriving in all four seasons since they have no reason to rest. The climate that they reside in is quite warm, but a
certain coral called the Northern Star coral hibernate in the winter months because when this species of
coral senses that the climate is getting cooler, they go into a deep sleep and during that time, the coral
cures itself from stress which I find to be a very neat feature of that coral.

Corals are very outstanding beings and they do so much for the Earth from providing living spaces for other ocean organisms to pushing back dangerous waves to protect ocean side living spaces corals are amazing in many ways. However, as I previously mentioned, corals are unfortunately on the brink of
becoming extinct. Why? Well, the main factors causing coral to die are global warming, climate change,
and human activity. Marine heat waves also affect the coral negatively due to the reason that these living things are not used to the warming oceans and as a result, they become stressed out since they are not accustomed to their habitats being so unnaturally warm. When coral is in the process of dying, they become white or bleached. In this particular stage, the coral can sometimes be saved but other times, bleaching leads to death, when the coral becomes a vile brown color and shrivels up. The bleaching phenomena happens when the coral starts being stressed and as a result, their layer of zooxanthellae peels off, (which is the layer of color on the coral) revealing their white skeleton. Once the layer of zooxanthellae is off, they become much more sensitive and prone to diseases and that often leads to death. This coral bleaching is happening across at least fifty-three countries according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the International Coral Reef Initiative. It is very unfortunate that this is happening in many places, but the good news is that we can help them.

Now, you may not think that we can help the coral if we live many miles away from any ocean, but the truth is that we can aid the corals a lot in simple ways. Believe it or not disposing of trash properly and
not littering can impact the health and well-being of corals. For example, if you toss a plastic water bottle on the ground carelessly, it will eventually end up in the ocean, therefore, land in the coral reef and pollute the habitat as well as surrounding areas. Moving on, another way to help the coral is by not anchoring boats right on reefs and avoid touching or picking coral while diving. Corals are sensitive
creatures and doing these little actions can damage the reefs and even kill them so, the reefs thrive best
when undisturbed. Also, if you use lawn fertilizers or pesticides in your yard consider using a green alternative to that since the chemicals in lawn care products are particularly toxic for corals and when the products are no longer usable, they will end up in the ocean and cause the coral to lose their layer of colorful zooxanthellae. Now, if you do all these actions, that will not only benefit the coral but benefit the whole underwater habitat as well. For example, a marine animal called the Parrotfish helps control algae growth populations on coral by nibbling on the algae that grows on the edge of coral as well as on the surface of various other rocks and shells. This creates new spots for baby coral to attach to and starts their growth process to keep the coral reefs thriving with vibrancy and underwater life for many generations to come.

In conclusion, coral reefs are a particularly important part of our ecosystem. Because of this, we should protect them so they can continue to provide homes and shelter for fish, snails, and other small underwater residents. One day, if coral reefs are no longer around anymore, we might be facing numerous issues such as severe storm damage to ocean side villages and even the population of some marine creatures going down since they may struggle to seek out alternate homes. That is why we need to act and save the coral reefs before it is too late.

Nield, David. When corals sleep for the Winter, their microbiome restructures itself. Science Alert.
How do coral reefs form? National Ocean Service.
How reefs are made. Coral Reef Alliance
Coral reef. Oceana
Colbert, Angela. Climate change is stressing corals- but there’s hope. NASA Climate. November 8, 2023.
Pizza, Angelica. Why are coral reefs dying? Brightly Eco. March 16, 2022
The world’s coral reefs are facing another mass bleaching event. CBC Ne

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