France, with all the territories in its possession and under its protection, hosts coral reefs of the world. Which leads it to the fourth rank of countries with most corals under its responsibility. But why protect coral reefs, role and importance. It’s, first, what we’re going to talk about in this first article of this series dedicated to corals.
What is a coral reef? Animal, plant or mineral?
To simply answer, a coral is an animal, living in its house of limestone (the mineral) having for roommate a seaweed (the plant) to realize photosynthesis.
In a scientific way, the coral reef is a structure built by animals (the only animal being called a polyp). Their skeleton, inside of which they live, is a hard limestone built from calcium carbonate. This structure can, in a long term, form a coral barrier.
The polyp is an animal made of a cylindrical body. At its end is a hole which serves as a mouth, surrounded by tentacles with which it catches its food and feeds itself. It’s also by this hole that it’s going to free its “eggs” during the egg-laying period for gendered reproduction.
As indicated above, the coral lives in symbiose with a seaweed, named zooxanthellae, that realizes photosynthesis. This brings nutrients and oxygen to the coral! Moreover, corals are composed in two families, hard corals and soft corals.
The role of coral reefs
Despite the low presence of coral reefs on the globe, they cover less than 0.2% of the earth surface, they host between 25% to 30% of the biodiversity!
This is easily explained: they are used as shelters to little fishes, to juveniles, to larvae, that can hide and feed easily.
These are places where prey… and predators are. Every food chain can be in the area.
Finally, these are production lands. These are oases in a large blue desert. Coral reefs are of paramount importance, rich but very fragile.
As we said yet, coral reefs are perfect places for gathering. Here’s why it’s about food source, not only for fishes but also for human beings that live close to the coasts and fish to feed themselves and trade.
Thus, this leads to income and has an economic importance! By the fact of their good health, reefs are also a bulwark against threatening elements coming from the sea (they absorb waves energy, reduce erosion, etc.)
Corals are fascinating animals, important but very fragile and the purpose of global warming. If they are under too much pressure, they deteriorate themselves and can undergo a bleaching episode (resent to the article dedicated).
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