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.