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Coral Reefs Essay

1562 words - 6 pages

Holly KeepersEnvironmental Science6/29Coral ReefsCoral reefs are very productive ecosystems that home enormous amounts of biodiversity and are also immensely important to modern society. These reefs are habitats for about 25 percent of all the animals and plants that live in the ocean. Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment. They provide provide protection and shelter for many species of fish, and without coral reefs, these animals would have no place to live and no place to reproduce. Many animals would become extinct without coral reefs!Coral reefs are a community of living organisms, made up of plants, fish, and many other creatures. Coral are tiny animals with exoskeletons. Coral reefs are composed of millions of these small animals built up in layers over time. Only the outer layer is alive, while below there are dead coral which builds up the reef. These underwater structures are created when underwater volcanoes build up to create an island. If the island has traits that coral needs to grow, coral can form around the island. The reef can grow to to partially or totally surround the island. Volcanic islands are eventually eroded away and sink back into the ocean, leaving only the reef.These reefs grow very slowly over time. The reefs seen today have been growing over the past 5,000 to 10,000 years. The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef and its made up of over two 900 individual reefs and 900 islands. This reef is about 20,000 years old! Australia's coastline is an ideal habitat for coral reefs - it has all the elements to help reefs prosper! Reefs grow best in warm, shallow, clear, sunny, and moving water, just like Australia has.There are many different types of reefs; they come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and colors. The three main types of coral reefs are fringing, barrier, or atoll. A fringing reef is a reef that is directly attached to the shore. These kinds of reefs form borders along the shoreline and the surrounding islands. A barrier reef is similar to the fringing reef, however instead of growing straight from the shoreline, the barrier reef is separated from land by an extensive body of water. Both, however, border shorelines. The last kind of reef is an atoll. When a fringing reef continues to grow upward from a sunken volcanic island, an atoll is formed. An atoll is generally in a circle or oval shape. These different kinds of coral reefs are all important to the ecosystem.Reefs home many different kinds of animals such as fish, turtles, eels, sharks, crabs, shrimps, urchins, and sponges. Plants such as algae and seagrass also live on reefs. So many animals like to live on coral reefs because they provide great shelter and protection. Animals can hide within cracks and crevices created by the coral to escape predators. Almost every living thing on a reef is food for another organism. The reef creates a complex food web and a great ecosystem!Not only are...

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