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fish and corals Are Coral Reefs in Danger?



Abstract


Located in tropical ocean waters, coral reefs provide priceless resources to both human and marine life.  The leading natural cause of destruction among the coral reefs is global warming.  Other natural causes are earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons.  The destruction to the coral reefs from these natural disasters is minimal compared to the dangers caused by man. Man-made destruction has a much wider impact on the health of the coral reefs.  This destruction includes over-fishing, damage from anchors, aquarium industry, overgrowth of seaweed, and being smothered by sediments.  

Are Coral Reefs in Danger?



Located in tropical ocean waters, coral reefs provide priceless resources to both human and marine life. They exist in an area about 30 degrees on either side of the equator.  Coral reefs are home to more species than any other marine ecosystem. This includes over 1500 types of fish and 500 different types of algae.  (Encarta) However, nearly 60% of coral reefs are in serious danger due to both natural and man-made causes.

The leading natural cause of destruction among the coral reefs is global warming.  Global warming causes the bleaching of coral reefs to occur.  Bleaching is a response to stress by the coral reef that happens when the water becomes to warm.  The coral then put out a brownish zooxanthelle which causes them to lose their color.  Without the zooxanthelle, the corals cannot provide nourishment for itself and this can eventually lead to death.  (Encarta)  

Other natural causes are earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons.  The destruction to the coral reefs from these natural disasters is minimal compared to the dangers caused by man. (University of Washington)

Man-made destruction has a much wider impact on the health of the coral reefs.  This destruction includes over-fishing, damage from anchors, aquarium industry, overgrowth of seaweed, and being smothered by sediments.  

For example, with the clearing of the rainforests, more nutrients are being washed into the ocean water which creates murky waters.  Corals need sunlight, and with the murky waters they are not able to survive.  This is considered natural because it is the nutrients in the land causing the murkiness; however it is also considered a man-made cause because the humans are the ones clearing the land causing the excess nutrients to be put into the ocean water. (Encarta)  A solution to this environmental problem is to ease up on the clearing of rainforests for land.  

Due to coral reefs being home to so many types of fish, it is easy for humans to be attracted to this area for many different types of industry.  The first problem is over-fishing.  As the population continues to grow, and the demand for food (fish) grows, then the fishing industry will continue to fish the coral reefs looking to make a buck.  These boats drop anchor to fish which in turn causes destruction of the reefs through physical contact with the anchor. The Asian fish market demands that restaurants have unique live fish on hand leading to coral reefs being the prime spot for fishing.    (Denecke, 2001)

Yet another problem related to the fish in this area is the growing demand for aquarium fish.  People think that its really cool to get that unique looking fish for their tank and are willing to pay money to have somebody go get them one.  The methods these fish retrievers use causes extreme damage.  They use a chemical like sodium cyanide to stun the fish so that the fisherman can gather them for the market place.  This cyanide kills the coral reefs, not to mention other things around it.  (Florida A&M Univeristy) (Simpson, 2001) Cyanide fishing began in the 1960s, and since then over one million kilograms of cyanide have been dumped in the Philippines alone.

A third problem the coral reefs face is strangulation by seaweed.  The over-fishing of the coral reefs leads to a decrease in plant-eating fish.  This leads to an overgrowth of seaweed which block the light from the coral causing death to the coral reefs.  (Denecke, 2001)

Irreversible destruction is occurring to our coral reef system.  The majority of this destruction is caused by the human race.  It is important that the people of the world come together to determine ... more

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Coral Reefs




Introduction

           Coral, common name for members of a large class of marine invertebrates characterized by a protective calcium carbonate or horny skeleton. This protective skeleton is also called coral. Corals are divided into two subclasses, based on differences in their radial symmetry. One subclass consists of colonial, eight-tentacled animals, each with an internal skeleton. Among them are whip corals, gorgonians, and the red coral used in making jewelry. Members of the other subclass commonly have six tentacles, or multiples of six, but other patterns are also observed. They include the stony, or true, corals. Another class of the same phylum also contains forms known as coral that are not considered here. Coral reefs are arguably the worlds most beautiful habitats. Coral reefs have been called the rainforests of the oceans, because of the rich diversity of life they support. Scientists have not yet finished counting the thousands of different species of plants and animals that use or live in the coral reef.
Materials and Methods
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Results
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Discussion
         There are three types of coral reefs: fringing reefs, barrier reefs, and atolls. Fringing reefs are located close to shore, separated from land by only shallow water. Barrier reefs lie farther offshore, separated from land by lagoons more than ten meters deep. Atolls, on the other hand, are formed far offshore and they make a ring-shaped reef that close a circular lagoon.
           Coral reefs are the largest biological structures on the planet, with the largest being the Great Barrier Reef covering over 2000 kilometers along the east coast of Australia (Focus, 1995). The reef is said to be 500,000 to 2,500,000 years old and is said to be visible from the moon.(Scientific, 1987).
          There is only one large threat to this beautiful structure and that is the carelessness of man. Silt from deforested lands and pollution from crowded coastlines choke them, and overuse by coal miners, fisheries, and even tourists deplete and destroy coral reefs. There are many more factors, which add to the destruction of the coral reefs, which if not stopped it will destroy all coral reefs.
Structure
          True corals secrete calcium carbonate from the bottom half of the stalk of the individual animal, or polyp, forming skeletal cups to which the polyps are anchored and into which they withdraw for protection. In the flattened oral disc at the top of the stalk is an opening, edged with feathery tentacles and cilia, that is both mouth and anus. At night the tentacles extend from the cup, seize animal plankton that wash against them, and carry the food to the mouth. Stinging cells, or nematocysts, on the tentacles can also paralyze prey.
Scientific Classification
          Corals belong to the class Anthozoa in the phylum Cnidaria (or Coelenterata). Corals with eight tentacles make up the subclass Ostocorallia or Alcyonaria. Corals that commonly have six tentacles or multiples of six belong to the subclass Zoantharia (or Hexacorallia). Stony, or true, corals belong to the order Scleractinia (or Madreporaria).
Colonies
           Some scleractinians exist as solitary polyps, but the majority are colonial. Colonial polyps average from 1 to 3 mm (0.04 to 0.12 in) in diameter. They are connected laterally by tubes that are an extension of the polyps' gastrovascular cavities, and the colony grows by asexual budding from the base or the oral disc of the polyps. Living polyps build on the deposits of their predecessors; the wide range of branched or massive forms that result depends on the species involved.
Sybiosis
         Corals are animals not plants, but like plants sunlight is the key to their survival. They need it to power the millions of microscopic algae, called zooxanthellae that live in their tissues. They co-exist in a mutualistic symbiotic relationship in which the algae provides the corals with food and oxygen in return for raw materials and a secure place to live. This teamwork is what allows the reef to survive in nutrient-poor tropical seas. This relationship is sensitive to many changes in the environment such as cloudy waters or extreme temperatures. Any stress on the corals can cause them to expel their algae, a phenomenon known as bleaching (Futurists, 1993). With the algae gone, the coral skeleton is visible and eventually it dies. Some dead coral will eventually lead to ... more

fish and corals

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