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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 Indo-Pacific Indo-Pacific 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 phytoplankton 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 organisms Diseases Storms Overfishing Coastal development Pollution 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.