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Reasons To Care About Coral Reefs

Coral Reefs

Corals build one of the most important ecosystems in the ocean. They are animals, but they look like rocks because they make a skeleton underneath themselves and they leave it behind as they grow up towards the sun and then that creates homes for sponges and clams and snails and those smaller organisms are what feed the bigger fish and the bigger fish. So without the corals, you slowly lose the ability to support the entire pyramid.

People often don't realise that they help protect the shorelines from waves, from big storms and from hurricanes. We know that corals can live for a long time but what's particularly interesting about that is that they are living in the blazing hot sun near the equator for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Now scientists are looking into how a coral manages to repair its DNA when it's sitting in the blazing sun for decades and decades. And hopefully we can understand how to prevent the mutations that eventually lead to cancer in humans.

Corals live with algae in their tissues. It would be as if you had lettuce growing under your skin and you are able to use the calories that the lettuce was making without eating any food. When a coral bleaches, the balance between that algae and that host coral sometimes goes off and the coral spits out those symbiotic partners and it is very difficult for them to survive, because they have lost their main source of food.

Unfortunately, anywhere you have humans, corals tend to suffer and that's because all of the activities that we do on land. Things like building, things like discharging sewage, things like agriculture those all affect the ocean.

A country that's doing a very strong job of conservation is Palau. They saw a massive coral bleaching event in 1998 and realised that they were at risk from the changes occurring globally. So they started putting in place fisheries, regulations and a marine park. They eventually put in a shark sanctuary and now they have 80% of their water protected from any kind of fishing or mining.

What we know now is that the sort of days of hoping and wishing for those corals reefs to survive is over. This treasure will help us get through the next era of development as long as we are just kind enough and wise enough to be sure that they all come along together with us into the future safely and protected.