What is Coral?
Coral is a soft-bodied animal called a polyp, which lives in a colony of other genetically identical polyps. Each polyp in the colony makes a hard calcium carbonate skeleton, giving the colony a rock-like appearance.
Coral polyps look like their close relatives jellyfish and anemones; they have the same basic cup-shaped body with stinging tentacles that surround a single opening.
Coral polyps use their tentacles to capture food; the tentacles will extend from the skeleton to catch tiny plankton from the surrounding water. However, coral polyps get up to 90% of their energy from a type of algae called zooxanthellae which lives inside the coral's tissues. This algae provides energy for the coral through photosynthesis. It is also what gives coral its colour.
What and Where are Coral Reefs?
Corals have been around for +500 million years and have evolved into one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Coral colonies form the foundation of the coral reef ecosystem.
Scleractinian or hard corals form the foundation of coral reef ecosystems. These are warm-water reefs, found in equatorial regions between the tropic of cancer and Capricorn. They prefer clean, clear water with temperatures between 21-29 C and shallow depths (<40m).
Why are Coral Reefs Important?
Coral reefs are called the “rainforests of the sea” for good reason. They are one of the most productive ocean ecosystems, they cover less than 1% of our oceans but support 25% of all marine life.
Through fisheries, tourism and recreation, coral reefs support half a billion people. They feed us, protect our coasts from storms, support medical and pharmaceutical advances, absorb our excess carbon and can fill us with endless wonder!
Coral reefs are vital to the economy of many tropical island states including Seychelles and Mauritius where our projects are based.
Threats to Reefs
Coral reefs throughout the world face many threats, both natural and human-made at local and global scales.
- Predation from species such as the crown of thorns sea star
- Coastal development causing nutrient pollution and sedimentation
- Unsustainable and destructive fishing practices
- Extraction for curio and ornament trade
- Ocean plastic pollution, causing entanglement and the spread of disease
- Unsustainable tourism practices
- Changing global environmental conditions
Coral Reefs and Climate Change
The earth is experiencing unprecedented levels of climate change linked to increased levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere since the late 1800s, caused by increases in industry, fossil fuel burning, increasing populations and changes in land use.
What does this mean for our Oceans?
- Decrease in global ice and snow levels causing sea level rise
- An increase in carbon absorbed by the Oceans from the atmosphere causes increasingly acid Oceans
- 90% of the extra energy (carbon and heat) we produce gets absorbed by our oceans, causing rising surface ocean temperatures
- Changes to chemical and biological structure of the ocean environment
Our coral reefs are at the front line of climate change. They are impacted by:
Increasing ocean acidity, caused by increased absorption of carbon from the atmosphere altering the chemical composition of the oceans.
Increasing stormy seas and sea level rise, caused by melting ice caps and increasing weather extremes
Increasing ocean temperatures, caused by excess heat absorption from the atmosphere.
Warming Oceans are the most imminent threat to our coral reefs. In the last 20 years our coral reefs have been hit by three global bleaching events caused by increased sea surface temperatures, resulting in mass coral die-offs. We are now facing losing 90% of coral reefs by 2050.
Coral rely on sugars produced by algae living inside their tissues in order to survive.
When stressed, by high temperatures for example, coral may expel their algae.
Without their symbiotic algae corals appear bleached white, they lose their primary source of food and can die.
What you can do
Today our oceans face unprecedented threats at global and local scales, but we can still save our reefs if we act together, and if we act now.
Be part of the solution for our reefs and oceans. Make your Promise to the Reef or Sponsor a Reef with us today.
What you can do
Are you a diver, marine educator or marine biology student from Seychelles or Mauritius?
Are you interested in volunteering on our Projects? Contact us today for more information!
A Promise to the Reef
A small promise with a big impact. Make a promise with us today and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions this year. Commit to one of these actions and choose a positive future for our reefs and planet!
Sponsor a Reef
Help restore a reef today!
Support our reef restoration projects in Seychelles and Mauritius. Through sponsorship we will transform a patch of reef back to health in your name.