As in all photosynthesizing organisms, this means that corals must be exposed to a sufficient amount of sunlight. This confines most corals to shallow waters that are clean and clear.
There are two kinds of corals: Hard corals Scleractinia , such as brain, star, staghorn, elkhorn and pillar corals have rigid exoskeletons, or corallites, that protect their soft delicate bodies. Soft corals Gorgonians , such as sea fans, sea whips, and sea rods, sway with the currents and lack an exoskeleton.
Seagrasses are flowering plants that often form meadows between mangrove habitats and coral reefs. There are obvious advantages of dry rocks, with the most notable being a lack of harmful hitchhikers. What To Buy Now. Each Watercolor Fish tapestry from W. You've just a discovered a custom designed Alice in Wonderland Tapestry from W. About the Author Mikki Barry is happiest doing 20 things at once.
Coral reefs are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on earth, rivaled only by tropical rain forests. They are made up not only of hard and soft corals, but also sponges, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and much more.
Competition for resources such as food, space and sunlight are some of the primary factors in determining the abundances and diversity of organisms on a reef. Each component of a coral reef is dependent upon and interconnected with countless other plants, animals and organisms.
This means that fluctuations in the abundance of one species can drastically alter both the diversity and abundances of others.
While natural causes such as hurricanes and other large storm events can be the stimulus for such alterations, it is more commonly anthropological forces that effect these types of shifts in the ecosystem. For example, overfishing of herbivorous fish often results in increased growth of algae and sea grasses. This generally results in an increase in other herbivorous marine life, such as sea urchins.
Over time all ecosystems will naturally establish these types of balances between predators and prey and organisms in competition for similar resources.
The question is how long those balances take to establish and what other reef relationships they affect. Learn more about the importance of coral reefs. The health, abundance and diversity of the organisms that make up a coral reef is directly linked to the surrounding terrestrial and marine environments. Mangrove forests and seagrass beds are two of the most important facets of the greater coral reef ecosystem. Mangroves are salt-tolerant trees that grow along tropical and sub-tropical coasts.
Their complex root systems help stabilize the shore line, while filtering pollutants and producing nutrients. After all, climate change is not about some hypothetical future; it's happening today. For example, global sea levels rose about 17 centimeters 6. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since Last year was the warmest of all, and it looks like it will be surpassed in What's at risk if we don't unite globally to address climate change?
Coral reefs are especially vulnerable, but their experience is not unique--all species are at risk when their environment changes rapidly. And our species is not immune. We are already getting a glimpse at how a shifting climate can undermine human prosperity. Extreme weather events such as storms, rising sea levels, and increasing temperatures can affect our food production systems, our access to potable water and even the air we breathe. We can also expect negative impacts to human health.
We know what's happening to our climate and we know why. The main question now is what will we do, what choices will we make to address climate change as a nation and across the world? For us , the answer is clear: First, we need the global community to mitigate climate change via international agreements like those coming out of COP21 and those advanced through COP But equally importantly, we need to address the local threats to reefs by helping communities build healthy fisheries, create clean water for reefs and increase their capacity to manage and sustain their livelihoods.
Together, we can vastly improve the chances that coral reefs will thrive for generations to come. This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, in conjunction with the U. The series will put a spotlight on climate-change issues and the conference itself.
To view the entire series, visit here. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you.