Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cool Coral Communities

Corals are animals in the Phylum Cnidaria, a coral polyp the main organism in the reef is made up of  a skeleton of CaCO3. The coral polyps are not the only ecosystem engineers of this community; sponges, bryozoans, sea anemones, fish, crabs, worms, and many other animals all call the Great Barrier Reef home. Being the world's richest area of diversity the animals all work together to survive in such a complex ecosystem. There are fish, Parrotfish, that play a major role in the life of coral reefs because the fish eat the seaweeds that over grow the coral. Even though this is a benefit to coral, Parrotfish also eat coral adding to the complex ecosystem found within coral reefs. Coral reefs provide not only food but protection for many animals. Because corals are so fascinating and unique many people desire to visit them. Tourism in the Great Barrier Reef is a huge economic advantage as well as a potential danger to the corals themselves. Runoff into the reef can pollute the ecosystem causing the corals to die off. The pollutants can cause disease and death with in the corals. This destroys one of the most beautiful places on earth.

 Tourists can break coral off while scuba diving or snorkeling slowly diminishing the reef little by little. Since the tourism of the reef is such a huge economic advantage for Australia, receiving two million visits a year, researchers have been discovering ways to protect the reef. NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program has been working on methods to preserve the reefs around the world. There is ongoing research around the world, the University of Miami in Florida is researching how to protect the reefs off the coast. While the University of Sydney is also doing research on understanding the coral communities. Much of the protection is regulating the tourists and the public to specific activities at certain times. Monitoring the fishing and the amount of water entering the reef are both ways the universities are helping to maintain their corals. The research on coral reproduction helps to place time frames for some restricted activities. Researchers are working on understanding the coral lifestyle to better protect the areas. Finding the presence of benthic organisms helps to define the habitat. On some reefs the benthic organisms are the problem, and others it is the fish. Depending on the characteristic of the reef, only specific organisms need protected to maintain the reef population. As more and more information is discovered about the fish and other creatures within this habitat better protection can be made.



  1. Nice post Katelyn! It's sad that tourism for economy trumps the conditions of the magnificent reefs. Just like we talked about with fisheries, businesses just want to keep making money without giving much thought or care to fish populations. I'm sure it's the same with the tourism through the coral reefs, and it is sad. It's good that we are aware and are trying to learn more about them to help save them though!

  2. Ideally the people and companies that make their livelihood from tourism will also want to conserve coral reefs so that their businesses can continue.

  3. Well you got my interest in the parrotfish now I am going to have to check out more about that type of fish. I actually just bought a field guide for fish and it gives a whole bunch of information on all types of fish. Also, I know you focused on tourism, but one day I will go scuba diving on the great barrier reef but, I will not try to harm it in any way shape or form. I am all for preserving coral reefs and their beauty. Thanks for the post! And I agree with Dr. Posner, a lot of companies that have tourism for scuba diving in Australia and other areas are going to want certain laws and regulations to be passed so that their company does not die along with the coral reefs.