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Coral under threat

Updated on June 19, 2011

Though the threatened corals of the world are themselves living creatures, together in reefs they build they offer home, food, sanctuary and protection to many other marine creatures. These include fish, turtles, molluscs, sea snakes, algae, sea grass, as well as sea birds and mammals. Losing the coral reefs would mean losing so much more. More than 25% of all life in the oceans of the world looks on the coral reef as home and yet the corals themselves take up take up only about 1% of the seas.

The coral reefs of the world are the rainforests of the ocean. As we destroy the forests on land we have now started the destruction of those within the sea. We know that the corals are important to us and our planet but we have not even begun to gauge how much this may be.

Most people when they think of coral, think of reefs and usually the Great Barrier Reef, one of the natural wonders of the world. Others are familiar with lumps of brain coral used as door stops or branched corals presented as decoration. Red and black coral are popular with some in jewelry.

Coral is much more than that. Coral is a potentional source of cures to disease. Coral is a barometer by which we can gauge the health of our planet.

What is Coral?

What are corals? - Corals are not plants. Corals are animals, living animals known as polyps which secrete the carbonate calcium structures which are the homes in which they live. This home is the skeleton of the animal and, living in colonies these tend to develop over time into large and diverse structures.

From the protection of their home the corals reach out with miniscule tentacles to catch and feed upon plankton and other tiny sea creatures. Most corals live in a symbiotic relationship with algae.

World Coral Reef Distribution

The corals today are under threat from pollution. We tend to use the vast oceans as a garbage dump for what we cannot dispose on land. The chemical changes within the sea are too much for many of these minute organisms to tolerate. Global warming too. Temperature dependent living creatures cannot thrive or survive when nature moves out of balance.

Corals are destroyed by fishing nets, by dynamite fishing, by boat damage and exploitation.

Mankind in its selfishness and greed cannot even give protection to just 1% of the sea. What hope is there for the rest of the oceans...the planet?

Coral Gardening

Coldwater Coral Reef Distribution

Image:  ution   Credit: Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal
Image: ution Credit: Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal

 25% of all coral reefs have disappeared.

Mosaic Coral

Fable - Coral was believed to protect from lightning and hurricanes.

Bubble Coral

 In ancient times coral was believed to be a cure for sterility.

Elkhorn Coral

Coral used to be presented by Italian men as an engagement gift. 

Pillar Coral

Coral is one of the seven treasures mentioned in Budhhist scriptures

Fan Coral

Coral is mentioned in the Bible (Job 28:18) - "Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention; the price of wisdom is beyond rubies."

Colt Coral

Coral is mentioned in the Koran (al-Rahmaan 55:58) - "(In beauty) they are like rubies and coral"

Pillar coral (Dendogyra cylindrus) - Closeup

If properly managed one square kilometre of coral reef can produce 15 tonnes of seafood annually.

Brain Coral

In excess of 450 million people are living within 60 kilometres of a coral reef. Most of these will be directly or indirectly deriving food and income from them.

Torch Coral

Corals are slow growing. Depending on species it will be as little as half an inch to several inches in a year. 


The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from Outer Space.

Flower Soft Coral (Xeniidae) Close up

Coral can grow within a human cut if the injury is not cleaned properly. 

Moon Coral

Coral can catch Herpes. 

Hard Coral (Dendrophyllia gracilis)

Coral was used as jewelry as long as 6000 BC. 

Pink Fan Coral

Greek legend tells that red coral gets its colour from the blood of the slain Medusa. 

Soft Coral (Dendronephthya)

Coral calcium is used as a supplement for healthy bones and teeth. 

Hard Coral

Living Coral is becoming increasingly popular as a marine aquarium exhibit.

Tube Coral

In the jewelry industry Coral is looked upon as an organic gemstone. 

Soft Coral (Dendronephthya)

Coral in jewelry comes in a variety of colours. red, black, blue, golden and pink being favourites. 

Soft Coral (Sinularia)

In spite of its sturdy appearance, coral is very fragile. 

Mushroom Coral

Corals can live from three months to thirty years depending on the species. 

Soft Coral (Dendronephthya)


Coral polyps are one of the smallest animals in the world.

Hammer Coral


Submit a Comment

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia

    Thanks Melissa, I did wonder about the Tube coral. I have seen similar sponges. I will have to investigate further.

  • Melissa A Smith profile image

    Melissa A Smith 6 years ago from New York

    Great article, I do believe the 'tube coral' is actually a species of sponge, also fascinating animals.

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 8 years ago from South East Asia

    Thanks GmaGoldie - You are right the world is amazing. Thanks for the comment.

  • GmaGoldie profile image

    Kelly Kline Burnett 8 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

    Great videos! I LOVE Coral! Be careful with lotions near corals - you can kill with chemicals.

    Just the other day, I noted that corals are on every continent in the world. Not abundant but they are there. You showed a great global photo.

    Isn't the world amazing! Wonderful job! Rated it up!

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 8 years ago from South East Asia

    Dohn - thank you for your very kind comments. I have a soft spot for corals, even the hard ones ;-)

  • dohn121 profile image

    dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

    This was an absolute treat to read, Peter. I was completely entranced by all of the beautiful pics you provided. Amazing work and I bet you poured a lot of time in this one (perhaps more than you anticipated). I liked the facts and figures and do hope that no further damage will be done to the coral reefs. This is without question, some of your best work, my friend. Thank you so much for showcasing this.

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 8 years ago from South East Asia

    Thanks Russell - I thought the photos were important to show that they are beautiful living and varied creatures and not just 'rocks' picked up on the beach.

  • Russell-D profile image

    Russell-D 8 years ago from Southern Ca.

    Peter - another serious piece of solid reporting. Fliker is a exceptional photo source on so many subjects. The ones you chose are wonderful and tell a story unto themselves. Thanks for a neat article. David Russell

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 8 years ago from South East Asia

    Hello Hello - No, I never knew that. Interesting.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

    Wow, that was fantastic, Peter. I would have never seen it otherwise. Thank you so much. They certainly destroying the sea, especially with dumping the nuclaer waste in it. Did you know that they threw JFK' coffin, in which he was transported from Dallas, at a spot which they were sure nobody would dare going there. Now this leaves two questions. Both should seriously be investigated. Very seriously.

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 8 years ago from South East Asia

    Thanks CMHypno - I enjoyed putting the article together. Coral has fascinated since I was a boy and I continue to be amazed. I can spend hours watching it in aquaria.

  • CMHypno profile image

    CMHypno 8 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

    Beautiful photos of coral, Peter, and I love the facts that are inbetween each coral photograph. If we are not careful we will destroy the coral reefs just like we are destroying the rainforests!