Why are coral reefs special?

Dead Coral Reef

Dead Coral Reef

Live Coral Reef

Live Coral Reef

Coral reefs are communities of hundreds of thousands of tiny animals called coral polyps.  They grow in sunlit shallows of warm clear water.
The reefs are built up as new corals attach atop the skeletons of dead  animals.  These coral reefs play a fundamental role in protecting coastlines from erosion and contribute to the formation of white sandy beaches.   Found around coastlines in the tropics, coral reefs provide homes for about a third of all fish species on Earth.

These complex, fragile ecosystems are deteriorating at an alarming rate.

CAUSES OF ENDANGERMENT
The coral species that are the reef’s foundation have very specific needs for light, temperature, salinity and oxygen.   They are easily damaged or killed.  Reefs are sensitive to unusually warm waters caused by global warming.  They are smothered by erosion from deforestation and dredging of rivers and bays.   They are blown up by fishers using dynamite, poisoned by collectors working for the aquarium trade and inadvertently damaged by boaters and scuba divers who stand on reefs or inadvertently hit them with fins or dangling equipment, breaking off pieces of the fragile coral.  Damage from anchors and accidental boat groundings is a severe problem.

 Cyanide and other toxins are used to stun reef fish so they can be captured alive to be sent to fish markets as aquarium specimens.
The accumulation of poisons is killing the reefs.
Improvements in the ability to keep corals alive has spurred a worldwide demand for live corals for aquariums.

Recently, scientists have become alarmed by increased occurrences of “coral bleaching”.
In many parts of the world the reefs are turning white and dying.
Coral gets its beautiful colors from the algae that lives within.  This algae produce oxygen and sugars for the coral polyps to eat.
The coral, in turn produces carbon dioxide and nitrogen which enhances algae growth.

If coral polyps are stressed by environmental changes, they lose their algae coating and turn white.

You must be thinking……“What can I do with all this information?……..I can’t stop this?”

There are many small steps we can take to help save what’s left of the coral.

Support business that are reef-friendly

Ask fishing, boating, aquarium and snorkelling services if and how they play a part in protecting the reefs

Don’t litter
Don’t leave behind unwanted equipment, such as nets and fishing lines along beach coasts.
Any kind of litter is pollution and holds the chance of harming the reefs and its species

  Contact government representatives demanding action to protect our reefs

Spread the word