Each day the sunrises and we begin our daily grind, we inevitably will be in touch with the ecology that surround us. When we run the water to brush our teeth and take our showers, when we get in our vehicles and drive to work, when we come home and check our email on our computers, when we call our friends on our cell phones, and when we dispose of our trash throughout our day.
Ecology is the study of our earth – it’s relationships with organisms and their environment, and how those relationships affect the planet. There is a lot we can do as a species to help our environment sustain itself. And a great way to begin is to get educated.
Ecology of Coral Reefs / Beauty in Form
Corals and corals reefs are one of the most beautiful and breathtaking forms of marine life that is found in our oceans. These may look like underwater trees and forests. These structures are produced by living organisms.
Most of the material that makes up coral is aragonite. This is a form of calcium carbonate. In the majority of coral reefs the predominant organism are cnidarians. Cnidarians are organisms that live in colonies and secrete exoskeletons of calcium carbonate.
It is this broken up skeletal material that is accumulated and piled by wave action and other bioeroders that make up the calcareous formation of the coral reefs. These reefs support live coral and a wide variety of plant and animal life.
Ecology of Coral Reefs / A Symbiotic Relationship
Reef building corals have evolved a symbiotic relationship that is vital to the coral with a species of brown algae called zoxanthellae (Symbiodinium microadriaticum). This species of algae is absolutely essential to the survival of the cnidarians. These single celled algae live within the hermatypic corals of the cnidarians.
Through photosynthesis they manufacture sugars and oxygen that the corals use in the process of producing limestone or calcium carbonate. In a symbiotic relationship with zoxanthellae corals can grow up to three times faster.
Ecology of Coral Reefs / The Importance of Color
The characteristic green color of corals is given by zoxanthellae. Changes in the environmental condition like increases in temperature or a change in salinity can cause the polyps to expel the zoxanthellae. Disease can also cause this expulsion.
The coral becomes completely white. This situation is called coral bleaching. The coral may survive if it regains some zoxanthellae but bleaching can sometimes be irreversible resulting to the coral dying.
Ecology of Coral Reefs /The Importance of Temperature
Most coral reefs need warm water. The temperature range most suitable to the majority of corals lies between 18 degrees to 30 degrees. Colder water usually results in poorly developed coral formations. The majority of coral reefs lie between the latitudes of 30 degrees north and south. These latitudes have the correct temperature range for corals.
Rainforests of the Ocean
With their wide variety of marine plant and animal life coral reefs are sometimes called “rainforests of the ocean”. Some estimates say up to 2 million different species of marine plants and animals are guests and residents of coral reefs.
This figure includes fully one quarter of all marine fish species! Coral reefs are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems on the planet. Reefs provide food and shelter to marine life and even protect the shores from erosion.
Reefs produce biologically active compounds that have anti microbial and anti viral effects. Additionally reefs generate significant revenue from tourism and scuba diving for communities around the reef areas.
The loss of coral reefs will represent a substantial loss to the community and to the planet as a whole. It is our duty to ourselves and to our future generations to protect and conserve these natural resources of uncommon beauty and bounty.
For more information on ecology and keepin’ it green just use the following links: