Marine Ecosystems: Coral Reefs Essay

Marine Ecosystems: Coral Reefs Essay

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Declan de Mamiel (1033575)

Coral reefs are the oldest of marine ecosystems, the youngest approximately 10,000 years old, and are often referred to as the rain forests’ of the ocean. Found commonly in tropical waters less than deep, these areas have a high availability of nutrients and access to sunlight required for the process of photosynthesis. Coral reefs are amongst the most complex and bio-diverse ecosystems, spanning approximately 284,300 km2 (Spalding & Ravilious et al., 2001) providing a home for 25% of all marine life. An increase in greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere is occurring due to the increase in population and burning of fossil fuels, this is a major cause of climate change. The average global temperature is rising, with 71% of the earth being water; our oceans temperatures are greatly affected. The optimum temperature for a reef to maximise its productivity is between 26-27oC. Very few reefs exist in waters below that of 18oC, one example is that of a reef in the Persian Gulf, adapting to water temperatures as low as 13oC during winter. Not only do reef systems provide essential nutrients and shelter to a range of marine species, but provide great economic and cultural benefit to society. Any threat to this unique and diverse system would substantially affect not just the marine environment but society as well. Hence, a greater understanding of the effects of climate change extending beyond the effects of temperature arguably need to be examined to preserve coral reefs for the future.
There are several species of coral that make up these reef systems, where the dynamics of these reefs depend on many abiotic factors including location, temperature, water depth, tidal range and water clarity. Coral reefs are f...

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