Coral Reefs Essay

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• INTRO: Within the world’s oceans, the greatest variety of life is found on amazing living structures called coral reefs. These fragile reefs play a critical role in sustaining a thriving ocean habitat, especially in tropical oceans. They also provide many benefits to humans as well. Yet, coral reefs are built by tiny animals, each smaller than a pencil eraser. Coral reefs are spectacular to behold, lush gardens in the sea, supporting a staggering diversity of marine life in a densely packed, thriving marine metropolis. In fact, coral reefs harbour the greatest diversity of life in the oceans, and are second only to tropical rainforests in the number of species found in one area on Earth. Nearly 25% of all marine life depends upon coral reefs for their survival, yet reefs make up only a very small part of the world's oceans: far less than 1% of the vast ocean floor. They are known as the ‘Rainforests of the sea’. • LOCATION: Coral reefs tend to grow where there is a lot of water movement, bringing nutrients, oxygen and new species. Most reef-building corals cannot grow in waters shallow enough to expose them at high tide or deeper than 50 meters, making them highly sensitive to changing sea levels. Most of the coral reefs are situated off the eastern coast of Africa, off the southern coast of India, in the Red Sea, off the coasts of northeast and northwest Australia and on to Polynesia. Additionally, there are also coral reefs off the coast of Florida, USA, to the Caribbean, and down to Brazil. • HOW THEY ARE FORMED: A coral polyp is an invertebrate animal. However, coral polyps do have skeletons, which they make with limestone. Thousands of these tiny skeletons combine to become the structure of a reef. Calcium is extracted from the seawater by the polyps and combined with carbon to make limestone (calcium carbonate). Over thousands of years, the coral

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