Coral reefs are often referred to as the rainforests of the oceans because they are so biodiverse.
Coral reefs are warm, clear, shallow ocean habitats that are rich in life.
The reef's massive structure is formed from coral polyps, tiny animals that live in colonies; when coral polyps die, they leave behind a hard, stony, branching structure made of limestone.
The coral provides shelter for many animals in this complex habitat, including sponges, fish (e.g. blacktip reef sharks, groupers, clown fish, eels, parrotfish, snapper, and scorpion fish), jellyfish, anemones, sea stars, crustaceans (like crabs, shrimp, and lobsters), turtles, sea snakes, snails, and mollusks (like octopuses and clams). Birds also feast on coral reef animals.
Coral reefs develop in shallow, warm water, usually near land, and mostly in the tropics; coral prefer temperatures between 24-26 °C and depths not exceeding 25 metres so that light can penetrate. The water must also be clear and free from sediment.
There are coral reefs off the eastern coast of Africa, off the southern coast of India, in the Red Sea, and off the coasts of northeast and northwest Australia and on to Polynesia.
There are also coral reefs off the coast of Florida, the Caribbean and Brazil.
Coral Reefs are amazingly bio-diverse - They have an enormous range of species of flora and fauna
Coral polyps live on and in the limestone structures that make up the reef
Fish off all kinds live from the nutrient rich seas in and around the corals
It’s a scuba divers paradise – but the corals are extremely delicate and may be easily damaged
Introducing quotas (a set number of fish that can be extracted from the sea) helps prevent overfishing. It ensures that there is always sufficient fish stock to reproduce which protects the economic interests of the next generation of fishermen.
Preventing cyanide and dynamite ‘fishing’ helps reduce overfishing and helps retain the quality of the reef, which in turn secures the biodiversity of the ecosystem, so creating a degree of environmental sustainability.
Ensuring local people are involved in the management of the reef (such as in ‘coral farming’) creates a sense of ‘ownership’ and ‘belonging’ which leads to social sustainability.
Additionally, this reproduction of coral ensures the long term survival of it, which will mean tourists will keep coming back, which in turn helps to sustain the economy of the area, keeping local people in business
An education programme (perhaps short video presentation on flights for example) will ensure people are made aware of the issues. This may stop them trampling across the corals and ensure they do not damage the reef. This is a lasting benefit which is therefore sustainable.
With international cooperation and pressure put on the air and car industry global warming can be controlled. This will prevent coral ‘bleaching’ and therefore ensure the environmental sustainability of the ecosystem.
This action will also retain stocks of fossil fuels for the next generation and by so doing ensure a degree of economic sustainability.
If poor people are supported they will not need to turn to extreme methods of fishing (eg dynamite). This is socially and economically sustainable for local people as well as ensuring the protection of the reef in order to promote environmental sustainability
Protecting the reef ensures the longevity of it. This will mean scientists have the opportunity to look for remedies to diseases. Tackling life threatening diseases is both economically and socially sustainable. By keeping people fit and well they are able to earn a living as well as enjoy a better quality of life.
HOMEWORK Research the recent oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico What caused the spill? What is likely to be the long term impact of this disaster? What is the response? What are the difficulties dealing with the problem?