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The Undersea Environment
of Coral Reefs
Presentation Overview
Biological characteristics of reefs
Functions of reefs
Potential Diseases and Hazards
Coral reefs are like
undersea cities.
Each coral within a reef is similar
to an apartment complex in a
neighborhood with many tenants
A coral is actually a home for
billions of tiny soft-bodied animals
called coral polyps.
These polyps reside within a cup-like calcium
carbonate skeleton. They have a central opening
surrounded by tentacles which can be extended to
feed on phytoplankton in the water column.
There are two different types of corals
Hard Corals known as scleractinians
Soft Corals know as gorgonians
Soft coral
Hard coral
Corals are located in three
primary locations
Western North Atlantic
Red Sea
They survive in unique conditions
that require...
Adequate sunlight
Water temperatures between 17-28 Celsius
Shallow water depths
Low siltation
Corals obtain food via…..
Zooxanthellae photosynthesis
Predation upon zooplankton and
Absorption of dissolved organic material
Reefs play important roles in the
coastal and ocean environment
Habitats for many marine species
Breeding grounds for lobster, shrimp, and
various fish
Food and shelter
Barriers protecting the coasts from storms
Sources of sand for beaches
Recreational areas for snorkelers, divers
and fishermen
Reefs also clean the surrounding water
through sponges that have filtering
systems similar to water treatment plants
Many natural and human-induced
factors can harm reefs
Bioerosion by fishes and other marine
Coastal development
Many inhabitants, such as angelfish
and parrotfish, utilize the reef
as a source of food and shelter. But too
much feeding causes bioerosion of the reef.
Global warming causes increases in water
temperature which can cause harm to the
coral reef environment in the form of
coral bleaching.
Diseases such as blackband and
whiteband disease are caused by
excessive warming of waters
We need to protect our reefs not only
for their intrinsic value, but for the
economic and recreational
resources they provide.