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The Future of Corals

Updated on August 21, 2010

Coral Survival

Coral reefs around the world have dwindled over the past 20 years. Many reef sanctuaries are now graveyards with dead coral skeletons, rubble, and barely any fish swimming about.

There are 4 contributing factors to the deaths of coral eco-systems:

1) Global warming

2) Sedimentation deposits

3) Over-fishing

4) Pollution

Global warming is only one factor threatening the future lives of corals, beautiful living works of art under the sea. These animals are slowly dying because their natural habitats are now 2 degrees higher in temperature, now 84 degrees Celsius, than what it was before at 82 degrees Celsius. This slight increase in ocean temperatures along tropical coastlines are slowly causing corals to bleach to death.

Corals require their food from tiny organisms living in them called zooxanthellae. The zooxanthellae harnesses the power of sunshine to produce algae inside the tissues of corals and this algae becomes food for the coral. Corals need this algae and their symbiotic relationship to survive. The corals then metabolize the algae into energy that is used for growth and reproduction. Without zooxanthellae, the corals again, start to bleach, and sadly, they ultimately die. The death of zooxanthellae is caused by sedimentation deposits. When heavy rains and hurricanes occur, rivers become flooded with dirt and debris and eventually, all that debris gets washed out into the sea that blankets the corals and their zooxanthellae. The zooxanthellae organisms cannot harness the sunlight to make algae for the coral because the sunlight is blocked by the dirt and heavy rains.

Over-fishing is just that, removing too many species of fish from the sea. A family of marine fish called surgeonfish are responsible for eating algae that naturally grows on corals. This type of algae is different from the algae produced by zooxanthellae. Surgeonfish are responsible for "mowing the grass" or eating all that algae that grows on corals. Many different species of surgeonfish are being fished for the food industry as well as the marine aquarium hobby. Scientists are finding ways to breed surgeonfish in captivity and release them to the wild so that is a good start at replenishing the surgeonfish population.

Pollution doesn't need to be explained as we all know what it does to the ocean. Pollution needs to be enforced more. Please throw away rubbish in their proper receptacles to help keep our oceans clean. Always recycle!

Save our oceans from global warming, sedimentation depositing, over-fishing, and pollution. As human beings, we can definitely save corals from becoming extinct but we must take action now or corals will have no future to look forward to.


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