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Thedefinition of coral reefs along biological and geological aspects hasseen them regarded as unique ecosystems. The organic aspect focuseson the “coral” community whereas the geological part addressestheir “reef” structure. (Jones2). Calcareous algae and corals secrete skeletal material thatconstructs the reef in the shallow subtropical and tropical globalwaters. This material is mostly made up of limestone (calciumcarbonate). The corals that secrete limestone matter are used in theconstruction of reefs that house zooxanthellae, single-celledmicroalgae that live in coral tissue. Both microalgae and coralsexhibit a symbiotic relationship. The waste they release providenutrients to microalgae living within their tissues. On the otherhand, the same microalgae, through plant photosynthesis provide foodfor the corals. The effects of both living organisms on carbon IVoxide are complementary thereby leading to the rapid growth rates ofskeletal materials (Jones102).
Coralreefs subdivide themselves into pieces that continue to live. Theircolonies can still survive in high nutrient waters. However, thisreefs exhibit a symbiotic relationship that enables them tophotosynthesize as plants and feed as animals (Jones24).This ability allows them to survive in waters that show low levels ofnutrients. In fact, low-nutrient waters suffice as the primaryhabitat for coral reefs particularly the tropical ocean deserts. Theydisplay a high dependence on light thereby explaining their locationin shallow-water habitats. The dependence on light restricts thebuilding up of coral colonies to shallow depths that do not exceed100 meters. As a result of this, the said reefs thrive in clearwaters that allow light penetration. This explains their locationnear land that subjects them to possible human exploitation andchanges on the adjacent landmasses (Jones252).The reefs present the most adverse marine ecosystems in the shallowwaters because of their three-dimensional structures.
Thesensitivity of coral reefs to changes in climate implies that this isindeed an environmental problem that threatens their continuedexistence. The findings of a survey conducted in 1998 revealed thatthe El-Niño rains that occurred that year destroyed 16% of theworld’s coral reefs (Wilkinson 115). The event bleached at least70% of reefs in the Great Barrier Reef of Jamaica, Tanzania, theSeychelles, and the Philippines. Climate change has resulted in anupsurge in sea temperatures by approximately 1oCover the past century. Currently, this rate of increase per countrystands at 1-2oCranged over a period of 100 years. Apparently, the survival of coralreefs depends mainly on building corals. It is also evident that therise in sea temperature has brought about the rise in level tothermal maxima of coral reefs. This implies that further increases intemperature would destroy the reefs (Jones 217).
Elevatedtemperatures cause events of mass bleaching. When they rise,zooxanthellae leave the tissues of corals thereby resulting in areduction in the number of microalgae photosynthetic plants inreef-building corals. The corals collected when mass bleaching takesplace revealed reduced numbers of zooxanthellae microalgae. Inessence, higher than normal sea temperature accounts for theincreased mortality of sea corals and mass bleaching events (Riegl,95).
Inconclusion, addressing climate change by reducing the emission ofchlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the atmosphere would reduce seatemperatures thereby restoring the normal thriving temperatures forcoral reefs.
Jones,O.A. Biology and Geology of V2: Biology. Elsevier. 2012.Print.
Riegl,Bernhard andPurkis, Sam.of the Gulf: Adaptation toClimatic Extremes. Springer Science & Business Media. 2012.Print.
Wilkinson,C. Status of Caribbean coral reefs after bleaching and hurricanes .2011. Print.