Coral Reefs Essay
Earth System Science Analysis:
CORAL is the Committee on Reef Area Loss. This is a committee that focuses on the problem of coral reef loss. They concern themselves with the fact that biodiversity will be greatly depleted as coral reefs decrease in certain areas. The committee hopes to prevent this biodiversity loss. To do this, they are considering building artificial coral reefs to replace the natural reefs.
When many people hear the words coral reef, they usually think of warm climates, colorful fish, and clear water. However, in actuality, the reef is part of a large and complex ecosystem. The coral community is a system that is made up of many biological communities, together making one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Corals are often referred to as the "rainforests of the oceans." Corals are actually small animals that belong to the cnidaria group. Cnidarias include hydras, jellyfish, and sea anemones. Corals are part of a group of animals that are not mobile and stay fixed in one place. They feed by reaching out their tentacles to catch prey. They feed on small fish and plankton like animals. Corals live in groups of many individuals. A single individual of the group is known as a polyp. Corals have a hard calcium carbonate skeleton. These skeletons build up over time and serve as protection for certain species. Most corals sustain a symbiotic relationship with a plant-like algae called zooxanthellae. This algae performs photosynthesis and provides food for the coral. In exchange, the coral provides protection. Coral reefs provide habitats for a wide variety of species. These organisms rely on corals for food and shelter. A loss in coral reef habitat can lead to a dramatic loss of biodiversity. Many scientists are concerned that such a loss of biodiversity is already happening. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Coral Reef Initiatives, an estimated 10 percent of Earth's coral reefs have already been seriously harmed, and a much higher percentage is threatened.
Artificial reefs are being considered to replace the already lost corals. This idea can be useful for many reasons, but there are also many negative aspects to it. One good thing about artificial coral reefs is that they will provide the many homes for animals that were lost. In addition, they can be a food...
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05. HUMAN IMPACT ON THE REEF
5(a) Importance of Coral Reefs
Functions of Coral Reefs: Coral reefs are important for many different reasons aside from supposedly containing the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. They:
- protect coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms
- provide habitats and shelter for many marine organisms
- are the source of nitrogen and other essential nutrients for marine food chains
- assist in carbon and nitrogen fixing
- help with nutrient recycling.
This is why large numbers of marine species live in reefs. Other reasons why they are so important include:
- The fishing industry depends on coral reefs because many fish spawn there and juvenile fish spend time there before making their way to the open sea
- The Great Barrier Reef generates more than1.5 billion dollars every year for the Australian economy, from fishing and tourism
- The study of coral reefs is important for providing a clear, scientifically-testable record of climatic events over the past million years or so. This includes records of recent major storms and human impacts that are recorded by the changes in coral growth patterns.
Importance of healthy ecosystems: Reducing biodiversity through the extinction of species inevitably leads to the breakdown in ecosystem health and function. Healthy ecosystems are essential to provide us with:
- natural resources, such as foods and drugs
- services we depend upon, such as recycling and purification of water and air, the creation of soil, and the break-down of pollutants
- social, cultural and recreational activities, such as those found in our many unique National Parks, World Heritage Areas and the other special places we like to visit
- high species diversity.
A diverse range of species provides a larger gene pool, giving natural communities survivaloptions when environmental conditions and climates change. Species evolve over time as natural selection favours the ‘best’ of these survival options. Therefore, extinction poses a greater threat to species for which there is limited diversity.
Existing species need to be conserved for scientists do not know everything there is to know about all species. A species may play a crucial role in an ecosystem and if it is removed, all organisms in that community may feel the impact. The greater the number of species and hence genetic diversity in an ecosystem, the lesser will be the impact of removing individual species.
The health, management and conservation of biodiversity, is a fundamental issue facing humankind, presenting a real challenge to biology today. The major factors that affect the health and function of our Great Barrier Reef are climate change and pollution. As Queenslanders, it is important that we develop strategies to protect our reef.