Coral are the foundation of the oceanic ecosystem. Corrals are living creatures that can live on their own but they are better known for their magnificent limestone communities they create.20 species of corrals have been added to the threatened list. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration acting under the Endangered Species Act declared 20 species of corral as endangered.
Corals have lived through precarious times and its existence is threatened for the last 10 years. What is heartening is the increased awareness in the public about the importance of corrals and how they affect our lives.
Species of Coral are living creatures and often known as polyps. They are related to jelly fish and sea anemones. Corals attach themselves to the ocean floor or it also attaches itself to the structure left behind by past corrals. Corals form colonies and the calicles which grow around the clones merge and affords protection to the coral formations. Thousands of years have elapsed and these colonies become gigantic structures to form reefs in the shallow warm seas of continental shelves. Some of the coral reefs have begun growing 50 million years ago.
Most people are aware of the incredible shapes and colors of corals. However the animals themselves are translucent. The color of the corals is caused by the algae which have a thriving symbiotic relationship with the corals. The corals lack the ability to prepare food by photosynthesis and this job is done by the algae. However when situations become extreme, the partnership between the coral and the algae ends and the former evicts the latter and the colony changes appearance and becomes white. This process is known as bleaching and is a sign of severe ecological disturbance.
Corals cover only 1% of the ocean floor but it supports almost 25% of all marine life within its reefs. The coral reefs serve as home to many fishes and also serve as a nursery for many more. Hence any damage to the coral reefs can have severe impact on the stability of Ocean’s ecology.
Coral reefs are threatened by three different factors. The Oceans are becoming more and more acidic because they are absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide which are released due to industrial activities. The ocean acidity has fallen 0.1 pH units which is equivalent to a 30 percent change in pH. If this situation persists it will severely affect the ocean’s ability to sustain life. The emissions due to automobiles, industries and extensive deforestation have led to an increase in global temperatures. The average temperature of the oceans has risen and is now the highest than any other time since the existence of mankind.
The inclusion of 20 corals is not enough since the proposed list contained more than 83 species. Scientists have chosen those which are facing the gravest threat ever.