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Coral Reefs - Rainforests Of The Sea!
This story appears in the issue of School LIVE.
Every ocean in the world is endowed with countless wonders. No matter how much we explore, there will always be certain mysteries and myriads, hidden deep in the depths of these oceans, that will continue to surprise us. One of the most beautiful and mesmerising treasures of an ocean is its coral reef.

A coral reef is an ocean’s most precious and wondrous ecosystem. Often termed as the ‘tropical rainforests of the seas’, coral reefs host a variety of sea life. Although they take up only 1% of an entire ocean floor, they host an estimated 25% of all ocean species. A coral reef provides the natural habitat for a large number of plants and sea animals and helps promote the growth of many young fish species. It consists of around 9 million coral species, all in a dazzling array of shapes and colours. Though these curious-looking creatures may look somewhat like plants, corals are actually made up of tiny animals called polyps.

 

Did you know that these sea organisms lacked skeletons of their own? Hence, they protected themselves by secreting limestone skeletons for support. Large coral reefs are in fact, formed when many polyps come together and begin to build on one another. As a result, a large colony of polyps is created which act as a single organism. These colonies then join other colonies to form an even larger coral reef. 

 

 

A coral reef consists of a burst of different colours. These colourful hues are obtained from algae called zooxanthellae that live within the cells of a polyp. In fact, polyps and zooxanthellae have an interdependent relationship with each other. While coral polyps rely on zooxanthellae algae for their food and colours, the algae, on the other hand, relies on these corals for their shelter and protection.

 

An extremely important benefit of coral reefs is that they slow down the ocean waves as they rush towards the shore, thereby protecting the people living along these coastlines from hurricanes, cyclones and tsunamis. However, due to environmental pollution and high temperature caused by climate change, sometimes, these corals are forced to expel their zooxanthellae out. This process is known as coral bleaching and is more harmful than you can imagine.

 

 

When a coral throws out its algae, not only does it end up losing its colour but since this alga proves to be extremely crucial for its health, this self-defeating response actually kills the entire coral colony. In addition to this, corals also get damaged by ocean acidification which occurs whenever an ocean absorbs a lot of carbon dioxide and becomes acidified.

 

So, not only would the destruction of coral reefs lead to the extinction of thousands of marine species but the millions of coastlines around the world that are currently protected by this ecosystem would easily flood more during storms and tsunamis. As a result, various islands and low-lying countries would vanish under the water rapidly. Hence, healthier the coral reefs, healthier are their oceans which in turn, can prove to be extremely vital to all life on Earth.

 

It is the need of the time to become more aware of disastrous natural processes like coral bleaching and acidification which destroy these coral reefs. So, let’s do our bit to save the most beautiful and magnificent organism of the seas.

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