Coral reefs can be found all throughout the world’s oceans. They live in various habitats and climates, creating complex ecosystems in which hundreds of marine species thrive. Learn about the coral reef climate as well as other interesting facts about the world’s largest living structures.
Where do coral reefs grow?
Coral colonies can be found all throughout the world. However, reef building corals can only be found in shallow tropical and subtropical waters. The main reason why these only grow in shallow waters is that the colonies are actually made of coral polyps and tiny algae called zooxanthellae. These need light for photosynthesis and they cannot thrive in deep waters where light is absent. There are also corals that live at depths of up to 6,000 meters. However, they do not need light, since they do not live in symbiosis with algae. Read the most interesting coral reef climate article.
Reef building corals live in shallow waters with temperatures of 76 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures are constant all year round and provide a stable habitat in which the coral colonies to grow. The waters are also relatively poor in nutrients yet corals thrive thanks to the fact that most of the energy and nutrients come from the tiny zooxanthellae.
Coral reefs and climate change
While coral reefs have been growing for millions of years, the current climate change is affecting them severely. Just tiny changes in water temperature can lead to a process known as coral bleaching. When temperatures rise, the tiny algae that live within the coral tissues die. The coral polyps then start to leave the colony, leaving the empty calcium carbonate exoskeleton behind. These lose their color since there are no more pigmented polyps, and they just look like white skeletons. Changes in ocean acidity due to the increase in CO2 can also result in coral bleaching and the increased losses are alarming.
While coral reefs cover just 0.2 percent of the ocean floor, they form a habitat in which more than 25 percent of the world’s marine species live and thrive. The coral reefs are the tropical rainforests of the seas and they should be protected at all costs. Coral reef climate is changing and affecting thousands of other species of plants and animals. This is why we must understand coral reefs, how they grow and what is damaging them so that we can stop losing more in the future.