Welcome to the ‘Rainforests of the Ocean’ – one of the most beautiful, diverse and colourful marine habitats across the globe. An underwater body, constructed by calcium carbonate that lines the ocean floor has flourished into an ecosystem that is teeming with coral polyps, billions of colourful algae and impressive sea anemones. This amazing platform has become the exciting home to over 25 percent of all marine species.

Here you can gaze into the blossoming eyes of the Peacock mantis shrimp, receive a colourful smile from the Clown triggerfish or become compelled by the swirls of Christmas tree worms – and together you will sense the marvel of evolution in its brightest and most inspiring forms.

Endangered Corals and Freshwater Organisms

Unfortunately, areas which are home to the richest biodiversity often suffer from the greatest amount of damage and disruption, and the Coral Reefs are one of the many ecosystems on this list.  Before looking into the damage caused to this charismatic ecosystem, let’s first concentrate on why the Coral Reefs are so special.

Coral Reefs

Image Source: USFWS Pacific

Beauties of the Coral

Coral reefs are essential hot spots for flourishing diversity. Gliding rays, agile multi-coloured fish swimmers and scuttling molluscs are just a few examples of the wide range of animals that use these corals as their homes. So why do these blue waters flow with such magnificence? The answer can be found within the ecosystems nutritional cycle – one of the most efficient across the whole animal kingdom.

Many intricate food webs have evolved to hold a whole array of hosts to deliver food to the top-notch predator, whilst maintaining a perfect balance between its members. In order for this food chain to begin, it always starts with a producer – say hello to the coral’s symbiotic algae. This symbiotic alga flourishes amazingly, providing energy to hundreds of Species that hide and ride between the coral.

Here is a collection of 35 beautiful Species found within the vibrant Coral Reefs stretched around the globe, each only being able to survive so well due to the coral reef’s algae based food chain.

1. Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum)

Species

Image Source: Allard One

2. Mosaic Sea Star (Plectaster decanus)

nature

Image Source: Richard Ling

3. Queen Angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris)

underwater

Image Source: nature Loving

4. Winter Anemone

Freshwater

Image Source: Mimi Ditchie

5. Golden Moray Eel (Gymnothorax melatremus)

Image Source: tab2space

6. Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus)


Image Source: Alain76

7. Damselfish – Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus)

Image Source: Boogies with Fish

Negative Ecological stresses and patterns

Unfortunately this extensive food web that the coral and its entire species depend on are becoming fragmented and exposed to many threats. Unethical fishing techniques that involve the use of dangerous compounds are releasing toxic substances such as cyanide and dynamite into coral waters. This is a dangerous pollutant, causing disruption and toxcitiy to the life that the ecosystem depends on. These fishing methods are constantly effecting the health of reefs – and even some, have been designed to crack open the heads of coral – this stresses nearby coral colonies causing them to expel their symbiotic algae which keeps them alive.

8. Peacock Mantis Shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus)

Image Source: Jon Hanson

9. Emperor Angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator)

 

Image Source: doug.deep

10. Leaf Lettuce Nudibranch

Image Source: Critidoc

11. Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus vittatus)

Image Source: Jon Hanson

12. Weedy Sea Dragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus)

Image Source: Doug.deep

13. Peacock Wrasse (Symphodus tinca)

 

Image Source: Raimundo Fernandez

14. Atlantic Bobtail (Sepiola atlantica)

Image Source: Raimundo Fernandez

An increase in sea temperature around coral barriers is another stress that these algae have to face. Increase in temperatures, causes the algae to photosynthesize their own food at a much faster rate than normal. The stress of such high demand results in either two dangerous results: 1) the coral popls will consume the algae or 2) the algae will reject its coral host – both ending in the same manner: death of the algae.

15. Bluestripped snapper (Lutjanus kasmira)

Image Source: Divemecressi

16. Red-lined bubble Snail (Bullina lineata)

Image Source: Doug.deep

17. Feather Star (Echinoderm)

Image Source: Scuba Diving Philippines

18. Striped Fang blenny (Meiacanthus grammistes)

Image Source: Doug.deep

19. Ribbon Eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita)

Image Source: Doug.deep

20. Mandarinfish (Synchiropus splendidus)

Image Source: Guy Carter

21. Fire Goby (Nemateleotris magnifica)

Image Source: Doug.deep

The death of this zooxanthellae algae is occuring more frequently and over widespread areas of coral reefs. This may not sound such a big deal – especially considering our view of algae as a pest in ponds and lakes, but this certainly puts the coral ecosystems life on hold. Without it, the corals lose their essential source of energy, and species such as phytoplankton that depend on it lose theres too, and this pattern travels through to the top of the web. Dismantling and rejection of this alga without being replaced on corals over a short period of time causes the coral to die and this is known as bleaching. This strips habitats and nutrition – the two imperative principles for coral organisms to thrive.

Even those small coral colonies that become bleached still hold negative consequences. It is the presence of algae that composes the vast deep colours to the coral, providing an attractive site for thousands of species breeding grounds.

22. Bluespotted Stingray (Neotrygon kuhlii)

Image Source: Guy Carter

23. Common Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)

Image Source: Raimundo Fernandez

24. Pygmy Sea Horse (Hippocampus bargibanti)

Image Source: Jon Hanson

25. Mosaic leatherjacket (Eubalichthys mosaicus)

Image Source: Doug.deep

26. Tubeworms

Image Source: Boogies with Fish

27. Cuttlefish

Image Source: Guy Carter

28. Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

Image Source: Jnarin

So how much of the coral reefs are we aware of already being affected?

How much of the coral do you think has been lost? 10%? 30%? In fact the numbers of bleached and dead coral reefs is double that, with some 60% of Caribbean reefs being affected.

Current estimates also show that 10% of all coral reefs are degraded beyond recovery and that 30% are in critical condition and could die within 10 to 20 years. Surely this should be a sign that we must protect the endangered coral we have left?

29. Harlequin Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus)

Image Source: PacificKl

30. French Angelfish (Pomacanthus paru)

Image Source: Bemep

31. Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Image Source: EpF

32. Short-nose Unicorn Fish (Naso unicornis)

Image Source: San Diego Shooter

33. Caribbean Reef Squid (Sepioteuthis sepioidea)

Image Source: Scubaben

34. Porcelain Crab (Neopetrolisthes maculatus)

Image Source: Festeban

35. Queen Parrot Fish (Scarus vetula)

Image Source: Lazsola-Photo

Rescuing the coral reefs: Ensuring future protection of the ecosystem and its species:

Most readers must be thinking: “What shall I do with all this negative information? I can’t possibly stop the fishing trade or rise in sea temperatures? And honestly – I agree on this one. But nevertheless we can all still make a stand or carry out small steps as a positive thinking community to help save what’s left of the alluring corals.

Supporting businesses that are reef-friendly: There is no harm in asking fishing, boating, aquarium and snorkelling services if and how they play a part in protecting the reefs. Make sure that they care for the living ecosystem that they are gaining economic worth from, and if in doubt do not use their service – look for alternative organisations that are responsible for managing the reef ecosystems. Many tourist industries do make an effort to work sustainably so finding these won’t add to your conscience!

Cleanly disposing of litter: Don’t leave behind unwanted equipment, such as nets, fishing lines and litter along beach coasts. Any kind of waste can act as pollution and holds the chance of stressing the reefs and affecting behaviours of species.

Contacting government representatives: A quick letter of demand to take action in a project that works to protect reefs only takes 15 minutes and is a quick and cheap way of spreading the word on helping out corals. Alternatively, letters could ask to stop sewage pollution into our oceans and expanding marine protected areas.

Spreading the word: The most essential way of showing your support to the reef ecosystem is yes a free one! It is to simply spread the word! Instilling excitement and encouragement in others to learn about the endangered coral reefs is the first and foremost important step into positive thinking. So give this a tweet or a digg, or forward this in an email so we can start securing change.

Do we really want to be responsible for changing this:

Image Source: JennyHuang

Into this?


Image Source: World Resources

As we continue to apply more strains across the world’s natural resources we should avoid forgetting that we as Homo sapiens are as much entwined and part of the animal world as any other species. Detaching ourselves from this outlook will only continue to inflict harm on the ecosystem. Let’s focus on these small operations to help protect the future of the enchanting colours of the coral and its species.

 

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/douga Doug

    Nice one Emma, great to see you getting the message out there!

  • Mike Rownings

    Beautiful. I love the twist for care alongside with good photography.Keep them coming, maybe do something on the wildlife in Australia, I know a few species there need help too!

  • http://www.chasingtheunexpected.com Angela

    These are so gorgeous, so sad the so many species are endangered.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/mimigd/ Mimi Ditchie

    This is really a great article, very informative and well-written. Your choice of photos to illustrate it are perfect.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/berndhoppe Bernd (Divemecressi)

    Hi there Emma,

    you did a great job with this, thank you. All the best for you’re studies and graduation and thank you for chose my Pic between all the fantastic shots of my colleges.

    Keep well

    Bernd

  • Jon H.

    Great article Emma.

  • JP

    Another incredible article, educational and beautiful, also written in an awe inspiring fashion which illustrates the authors passion for the subject. Includes some stunning pictures of coral species too showing just how colourful our planet is and also how vulnerable.

  • http://ihengbok.blogspot.com Nikita Hengbok

    Very fascinating! :)

  • http://cityministroller Chandra

    Eventually, an problem that I am passionate about. I’ve looked for data of this caliber for the final numerous hrs. Your website is significantly appreciated.

  • Sue Brown

    What a beautifully detialed coverage on these glorious species and the dangers against them. Very impressed.

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  • BlondeBrunetteTravel

    These are beyond fabulous! I want to share them with our Facebook Fan Page but the link won’t work when I try to do that. Is it allowed? https://www.facebook.com/BlondeBrunetteTravel