Although you might think they are pretty stones or plants, corals are actually a collection of hundreds or thousands of sea animals called polyps that live in one place throughout their lives. Some types of coral live alone, but many live together in groups, called colonies. Lots of different coral types living together can form enormous colonies, which are called coral reefs. Many organisms live on coral reefs because they provide food, and shelter from predators. Although coral reefs cover only 1% of the oceans, about one quarter of all marine organisms live around them. That makes them one of the most important ecosystems in the world. At the same time, they are sadly also one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world
Global warming has a major effect on coral reefs in our oceans. Warmer ocean water leads to stress in the corals and causes them to throw off the algae living in their skins and become white in color. Without the algae, the coral loses its source of food and is more vulnerable to disease. This process is called coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is one of the largest threats to coral reefs all around the world, especially in the Galapagos.
Direct human activities also endanger coral reefs. Coral skeletons are widely used to make jewelry, and this industry has put many corals at risk. Oil spills, pollution, and boats floating over reefs also damage the precious corals. If nothing is done to help the coral reefs, marine life everywhere will continue to suffer.
What You Can Do
There are many things every one of us needs to do to help protect coral reefs. A few examples: when you go snorkeling, never touch corals or try to hold on to them. You might break them. Get informed about Global Warming and how you can help fight it – for example by eating less meat. Make sure you only eat sustainable seafood.
This article and its images were first published on www.WhyzzExplorer.com, a website that helps parents to explain the world to kids, to inspire them to make a difference and to raise true global citizens.