What are corals?
Corals are marine invertebrates of the Cnidaria phylum. They are distinguished by their hard, calcium carbonate skeletons, which serve as a framework for the coral colony. Corals can be found in all oceans and are known for their vibrant colors and unique shapes.
Types of corals
Corals are classified into two types: hard corals and soft corals. The reef structure is built by hard corals, also known as scleractinian corals, which have hard, calcium carbonate skeletons. Soft corals, also known as octocorals, have a flexible, fleshy skeleton and do not build the reef structure.
Examples for world famous corals
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Belize Barrier Reef in Belize, and the Raja Ampat Islands in Indonesia are all examples of famous coral reefs. These coral reefs are well-known for their rich marine life and breathtaking beauty.
The significance of having corals in the sea
Corals play an important role in marine ecosystems because they provide habitat for a diverse range of marine organisms such as fish, crabs, and shrimps. Coral reefs also help to protect coastlines from erosion and storms, and they play an important role in the global carbon cycle by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. They also serve as a nursery for many commercial fish species, providing food and income to millions of people around the world.
They also contribute significantly to the tourism industry. Coral reef destruction would have a significant impact on marine biodiversity and the livelihoods of those who rely on them.
Differences between soft corals and hard corals
There are numerous types of corals, but the two most common are hard corals and soft corals.
The calcium carbonate skeleton of hard corals, also known as stony corals, distinguishes them. These skeletons form the structure of reefs and serve as a home for a diverse range of marine life. Elkhorn coral and staghorn coral are examples of hard corals.
Soft corals, on the other hand, lack hard skeletons and are more flexible and delicate. They are also known as gorgonians, and come in a variety of colors and shapes. Sea fans and sea whips are examples of soft corals.
Great Barrier Reef in Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is a vast marine ecosystem off Australia’s northeastern coast. It is the world’s largest coral reef system, stretching over 1,400 miles and containing over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands. The Great Barrier Reef is home to an incredible variety of marine life, including thousands of fish species, hundreds of different types of coral, and a wide range of other organisms such as mollusks, sponges, and sea turtles.
The Great Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world’s seven natural wonders. It is a popular tourist destination, with activities such as snorkeling, diving, and boat tours available to explore the reef and its inhabitants.
However, the Great Barrier Reef is under severe threat from climate change, pollution, and overfishing. Rising ocean temperatures cause coral bleaching, which can lead to coral death, and pollution harms the health of the reef and the organisms that rely on it. Measures to reduce pollution and overfishing, as well as efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, are being taken to protect and conserve the reef.
The Great Barrier Reef is an important ecosystem not only for the marine life that calls it home, but also for the people who rely on it for a living and the millions of visitors who visit each year to marvel at its beauty.