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Coral reefs are living structures that are produced by living organisms which are found in the marine environment. Organisms such as the colonial cnidarians are commonly involved in the secretion of Exoskeletons of calcium carbonate which are then piled up by waves. The piled skeletal material then forms a calcareous structure that enables the growth of living corals. The theme of this paper is to discuss the coral reefs ecosystem and the favorable environment required for the growth and maintenance of the corals (Veron, p16). The corals are very important structures within the marine environment since they play various critical roles. The growth of the corals occurs in an ecosystem which is largely interdependent. Apart from this there are various requirements for growth that must be present to enable growth and the survival of the corals over a long period of time. The different requirements within the environments have given rise to various forms and types of corals. However the interesting structures have been faced by various threats that have led to destruction and death of most corals within the marine environment. Hope is not all lost since some measures can be put in place to preserve them and prolong their life.
The coral reefs have both an ecological and economic impact. They are provide a home, food and resting places for various species of animals such as Snails, Butterflies, Snake rates, Woodpeckers, Pigeons, Insects, Woodrats, Crabs, Key Deer. Cotton Mice among others. The corals also play a vital role in protecting the soil from erosions since it traps the silt and sediments that would otherwise destroy the quality of marine life. It also provides nutrients to itself and also to other communities in the ecosystem from the decaying vegetation. The corals also provide nursery grounds for some organisms such as the spiny lobster, grunts, sea trout, gray snapper, commercial pink shrimp and the barracuda. The corals form a natural and self maintained kind of a barrier that protects the shore and the lagoons from the effects of the ocean storms and also the hurricanes (Ravilious, p18). Together with the Calcareous algae, the corals are a major source of sand. This sand is very important for the sea grass growth and also the formation of sand beaches. Within the economy, they support the tourism sector since they provide beautiful sceneries for the tourists to view. For example the Florida economy largely depends on tourists who visit the corals annually. They also support the survival of the fish which is an important drive of the economy (Veron, p23). It has also formed a large base for researchers and scientists who are interested in learning the unique and diverse both creatures within the marine. These roles played by corals greatly indicate the importance of the corals within the marine.
The coral reefs grow in a very interdependent ecosystem. The ecosystem is mainly composed of the coral reefs, the mangroves, the sea grass and other living organisms within the marine. Each of the community in this ecosystem plays a very important role in the survival of other communities. The survival of the reefs depends on the interaction of the various organisms living in the marine such as the hard and soft corals, turtles, crustaceans, fish, worms, sponges and other lives in the system. The mangroves for example play a very a very important role in trapping and producing nutrients required for food production, stabilizing the shore and filtering pollutants that come from the land. The sea grasses on the other hand provide food for marine life. They are involved in filtering the water from sediments, stabilizing the bottom area and also releasing oxygen required by other living organisms in the ecosystem (CCMA) (2007). The survival and growth of the corals reefs therefore largely depends on these communities of its ecosystem.
Corals require various climatic and geological factors to support their growth. Temperatures that prevail in a certain area greatly determine whether corals can grow and survive in that environment. Scientists have indicated that corals require temperatures that range between 75F (23.8c) and 85F (29.4c). Temperatures that go below or above these levels will certainly destroy the surviving corals or hamper growth of new corals. Corals that are in temperatures below 75F or higher than 85F are said to be experiencing stress (Veron, p26). Corals require an environment that has easy and light penetration for its growing branches. This means that the environment should have very shallow sediments and algae. The salt levels of the sea are also a great contributing factor. Corals require a salinity level of between 34 and 37ppt which is considered normal at sea level. The corals require very low concentrations of nutrients. The levels of phosphates and nitrogen should especially be very low. Other requirements for growth of the corals include adequate food such as zoo plantations, minimal pollution and very low levels of silt and sediments (Ravilious, p24). An environment that lacks these specified requirements cannot adequately support the growth of the corals.
Different conditions and requirements have given rise to various forms and types of corals. There are eight common forms of corals. There is the fringing reef, the patch reef, the apron reef, the ribbon reef, the table reef, atoll reef and the bank reef. These forms are differentiated by the manner in which they are attached to the lagoons, their shapes and isolation from the mainland. The most common types of the coral reefs include the elliptical star coral, staghorn, the boulder star coral, the pillar, sea fan, Elkhorn coral, lettuce coral, great star coral and the finger coral. These types of corals have different shapes all together. Colonies take different forms of the branches giving a variety of corals. The corals also have different sizes ranging from 1 to 12 feet. They also have differentiated colors where some have one specific shade and others adopt a mixed range of colors. The habitat of these corals is different with some corals growing in very shallow depths such as 3ft while others require high feet such as 160ft (CCMA) (2007). Other habitats include flat and sloppy areas that have high wave action. The prevailing conditions in the marine therefore greatly determine the forms and the types of corals that can grow in that area.
The lives of the corals are faced with serious threats of degradation. This includes threats from human action, diseases and natural threats. The threats posed by the natural processes and the humans can have a direct or an indirect impact on the lives of the corals (Ravilious, p31). Some of the natural factors that contribute to the destroying of the corals include violent storms, cold waterfronts, hurricanes and low tides. The changes in these natural actions may cause thermal stress to the corals which may lead to death. The unique corals in the marine have attracted the actions of the humans. Human activities however, such as fishing, farming, diving, boaters among others affect the survival of the corals. Direct activities such as boating, diving and fishing activities such as nets and hooks may carelessly touch the corals thus destroying them. Other indirect activities that may result to destroying corals include use of chemicals that add nutrients to the water, disposals from sewage, land, boats, cleaning products that have high phosphates and other solid wastes (Veron, p34). Diseases have also contributed to the destruction of the corals. These include diseases such as yellow band, white plague, black band, white pox among others. These diseases destroy the corals by attacking their living tissues. These unfortunate actions resulting from, diseases, humans or natural processes therefore result to poor health and death of the corals.
In conclusion, various measures can be taken to preserve the corals. Strict actions can be taken against humans such as controlling boats, divers, farming activities and the level of fishing near the lagoons. The government should be involved in enforcing measures to ensure that the corals are protected. This is done by establishing marine areas of protection. Campaigning and educating people who are directly involved in such areas should be enhanced to ensure personal responsibility of the corals. There should also be more advanced methods to detect diseases in order to treat them before the damage goes far (CCMA) (2007). Such protective measures will ensure that the corals have continuous favorable environment for survival.
Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA) (2007). Coral Reef Ecosystems Studies. Web.
J.E.N. Veron. Corals of the World. Sea Challenger, 2000
Mark D. Spalding, Edmund P. Green and Corinna Ravilious. World Atlas of Coral Reefs. University of California Press, 2001.