World Reef Day 2022: Hello Coral!

How much do you know about our coral reef? Are they plants or animals? Why are they so colourful? In conjunction with World Reef Day on the 1st of June, let’s spare a moment to read about some interesting facts about our beautiful coral reef.

Photo Credit to Shaun Low

1. Is coral an animal or plant?

Corals are animals, though, because they do not make their own food, as plants do. Corals have tiny, tentacle-like arms that they use to capture their food from the water and sweep into their inscrutable mouths.

2. What does coral eat?

Corals get their food from algae living in their tissues or by capturing and digesting prey. Most reef-building corals have a unique partnership with tiny algae called zooxanthellae. The algae live within the coral polyps, using sunlight to make sugar for energy.

3. Which is the largest coral reef in the world?

Stretching for 1,429 miles over an area of approximately 133,000 square miles, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. It is located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, in the Coral Sea.

The reef, which is large enough to be visible from space, is made up of nearly 3,000 individual reefs. Much of the Great Barrier Reef is a marine protected area, managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority of Australia.

Photo Credit to Diogo Hungria

4. Why is coral the largest structure of biological origin on Earth?

More than merely a clever collaboration that has endured between some of the tiniest ocean animals and plants for some 25 million years, this mutual exchange is the reason why coral reefs are the largest structures of biological origin on Earth and rival old-growth forests in the longevity of their ecological communities.

5. Why is coral turning white?

Coral bleaching happens when corals lose their vibrant colours and turn white. Coral is bright and colourful because of microscopic algae called zooxanthellae. The zooxanthellae live within the coral in a mutually beneficial relationship, each helping the other survive. But when the ocean environment changes—if it gets too hot, for instance—the coral stresses out and expels the algae.

As the algae leaves, the coral fades until it looks like it’s been bleached. If the temperature stays high, the coral won’t let the algae back, and the coral will die.

6. How does coral bleaching impact wildlife?

Coral reefs support some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. Thousands of marine animals depend on coral reefs for survival, including some species of sea turtles, fish, crabs, shrimp, jellyfish, sea birds, starfish, and more. Coral reefs provide shelter, spawning grounds, and protection from predators. They also support organisms at the base of ocean food chains. As reef ecosystems collapse, already at-risk marine species may face extinction.

7. How does coral bleaching impact humans?

Coral bleaching impacts peoples’ livelihoods, food security, and safety. How? Coral reefs are natural barriers that absorb the force of waves and storm surges, keeping coastal communities safe. Without them, we must rely on manmade seawalls that are expensive, less effective, and environmentally damaging to construct.

Bleached coral also compounds the overfishing crisis by removing links in the food web and depriving some fish and crustacean species of a place to spawn and develop. Anyone relying on these animals as a primary source of income or protein will be in trouble.

Meanwhile, reef tourism brings in billions of dollars each year and supports thousands of jobs. Bleached coral reefs, devoid of magnificent marine species, jeopardize it all.

As a conclusion, coral reef is the foundation for marine life and it is very important for our ocean in keeping its ecosystem’s balance. The rise in global temperature will affect the seawater and harm our marine lives especially coral reefs. Therefore, World Reef Day is a very important day for us to call to action for all consumers, businesses, and organisations to reflect on the delicate ecosystem of our ocean’s coral reefs. We need to turn our words into action by reducing our carbon footprint and stop polluting our ocean. Save our ocean and coral reef before it is too late.

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