Ah, the beautiful coral reefs of the tropical islands that we love to visit and explore and all the little fun creatures that call them home. As a diver we know how fragile and beautiful coral reefs are, after all most places that we go to visit them are now protected areas. We are told from the first day in our open water scuba class not to touch
Much like the rainforest that many activists are working to safe and conserve our version, the coral reefs are a warehouse of amazing biodiversity and is very complex eco system supporting a wide array of creatures. In fact, coral reefs are the habitat and nursery grounds for over 25% of all know marine life. Home to over a quarter of all marine species in only 110,000 square miles of basically the size of the state of Nevada. Our coral reefs are the foundation of life in the ocean, allowing bacteria and algae to coat the sandy bottom or vacant spots in the reef and providing food for the mollusks, crustaceans, sea cucumbers and others.
But, coral reefs are more that home and birthing grounds to the creatures that live there. They also, protect islands and coastal communities from wave damage and erosion. Coral reefs and mangroves will absorb up to 90% of the energy from waves as they race towards the beach. But, coral reefs can also start with a little help from us. The placement of wrecks and even the oil rigs out in the gulf are homes to coral and marine life.
But, coral reefs grow best in water ranging from 64 to 86 degrees and they grow slow. Branching corals such as the staghorn and elkhorn only grow horizontally at a rate of approximately 4 inches per year. Vertical growth varies as well and can be as slow as fractions of an inch a year. One poorly placed fin tip can wipe out a decade or more of growth. And as ocean temps rise the growth rate of our coral reefs can slow and even kill them.
You can learn how to help protect or coral reefs in a Peak Performance Buoyancy clinic or class.