Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, housing tens of thousands of marine species. About 1/3 of all marine fish species live part of their lives on them. But how much do you know about reefs and the tiny animals that build them?
It’s coral reef awareness week so we tried to collect the most interesting facts about corals, the major threats they are facing with and last but not least: What can we do to help?
5 FACTS ABOUT CORALS
1 – Corals are animals
Yes, they are alive! From above, corals might look like rocks…but they are very fragile and beautiful animals. An individual coral is known as a polyp, a very small and simple organism consisting mostly of a stomach topped by a tentacle-bearing mouth.
2 – They grow very, very slowly
In general, corals tend to grow slowly, increasing in size from 0.5 cm to 2 cm per YEAR. However, under favorable conditions (high light exposure, consistent temperature, moderate wave action), some species can grow as much as 4.5 cm per year.
3 – They can be really old
Some of the coral reefs on the planet today began growing over 50 million years ago. That is something!
4 – “Telepathic” communication
Every year on the same day, at the same hour, usually within the same minute, corals of the same species, although separated by thousands of miles, will suddenly spawn in perfect synchronicity. The dates and times vary from year to year for reasons that only coral knows. It can communicate in a way far more sophisticated than anyone ever thought.
5 – Colorful or not?
Coral polyps are actually translucent animals. Reefs get their wild hues from the billions of colorful zooxanthellae algae they host. When stressed by temperature change or pollution, corals will evict their boarders, causing coral bleaching that can kill the colony if the stress is not mitigated.
60% can disappear in the next 30 years…
Roughly one-quarter of coral reefs worldwide are already considered damaged beyond repair, with another two-thirdsunder serious threat. The continuously growing human population and global warming is threatening our coral reefs – where 25% of marine animals live and where 90% of them rely on for one reason or another. Some other factors which are killing the corals are the increasing temperature of our oceans, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, unethical fishing methods, water pollution, sedimentation and human activities.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
1 – Do not touch it or step on it
Did you know that every time you step on a coral, you are killing an organism that has been growing for the last 5,000 to 10,000 years? As reefs grow at a very slow pace, they won’t be able to grow fast enough to replenish those that are being destroyed. Next time you go swimming or diving, you won’t be taking home a piece of coral with you or use them to stand on, right?
2 – Do not litter
Prevent litter, chemicals, and sediments from draining into the sea.
3 – Report bleaching that you see
Just one degree above the typical summer maximum is enough to bleach many corals. If the temperature is too high for too long, corals and their microalgae are unable to recover. Over the past 30 years, bleaching has become more frequent, more intense, and more widespread. This has led to massive die offs of corals throughout the world.
4 – Support a non-profit organization
There are organizations who are trying to save what remains of our coral reefs. They are encouraging countries to preserve what’s left and to stop illegal fishing practices. There are some options:
5 – Educate others
We believe that spreading information about the threats to our coral reefs, what they are and how they affect our lives, is a big step towards removing the direct threats.