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Why are Coral Reefs Important?

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Ever wondered what a coral reef does?

Did you know that coral reefs eat food?

Coral reefs play a vital role in developing marine ecosystems and can protect your property from being damaged.

In this article we will uncover the following:

  • What are coral reefs?

  • Why are coral reefs important?

  • What do corals eat?

  • How do corals eat?

What are Coral Reefs?

Coral reefs are large underwater structures composed of ancient skeletons of animals called corals. Each individual coral is known as a polyp. A coral polyp is an invertebrate with a sac-like body and mouth with tentacles. A coral polyp uses calcium carbonate (limestone) from the seawater to build-up a hard outer skeleton. Corals use calcium carbonate from ancestors and produce more to gradually build up to become massive marine ecosystems.

What happens to corals when they become too warm? (Answer at end of article)

  • They become bleached

  • They cool the water

  • Use fish as protection

  • Go into hiding

Why are Coral Reefs Important?

Coral reefs are important because of their diverse ecosystems that protect and feed humans and wildlife. Around 25% of all marine life is dependent upon coral reefs. Coral reefs are the cornerstone of marine life, supporting more species per area than any other marine environment. Coral reefs are important to nature and humans and provide the following:

  • habitat

  • food

  • recreation

  • medicine

  • protection

Healthy coral reef structures provide a barrier of protection on our coastlines. Without a barrier of protection, land will be damaged and lives will be lost. Coral reef barriers protect the coasts from the following:

  • waves

  • natural disasters

  • erosions

  • loss of life

  • property damage

What Do Corals Eat?

Corals are living organisms, so they must eat to survive. Corals mainly eat algae and zooplankton. However, corals with larger polyps can catch and digest small fish.

How Do Corals Eat?

The coral and algae have a mutualistic relationship. The corals provide algae with protection and the compounds needed for photosynthesis. The algae use photosynthesis to create sugar that is transferred to the polyp providing energy. The algae produce oxygen and remove waste from the corals and corals provide carbon dioxide for the algae.

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Poll answer: They become bleached

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