Tropical Coral Reefs

By: Angelina Melendez-Negron

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What Is A Coral Reef ECOSYSTEM?

The Coral Reef ecosystem is a diverse collection of species that interact with each other and the physical environment. The Sun is an initial source of energy for this ecosystem. Through photosynthesis, phytoplankton, algae, and other plants convert light into chemical energy. As animals eat plants or other animals, a portion of this energy is passed on.


What Are Some Interesting Facts About A Coral Reef?


  • Coral reef biomes must exist in shallow water because they must remain between 77 to 84° F. Shallow water is easier to keep warm by the Sun than deeper water.
  • Coral reefs take a very long time to grow. They grow at a rate up to 2 cm per year.
  • Coral reefs are important to the development of new medicines. According to NOAA, "Coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases."
  • You can find sunken ships in the Florida keys with coral reefs growing on them! There are places where you can dive to see and explore them.

Image Of The Great Florida Reef

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DID YOU KNOW?

The Great Florida reef stretches for over 4 miles!

What Are Facts About A Tropical Coral Reef?

A coral reef is a community of living organisms. It is made up of plants, fish, and many other creatures. Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. They are home to about 25% of all marine life! There are sponges, sea slugs, oysters, clams, crabs, shrimp, sea worms, starfish and sea urchins, jellyfish and sea anemones; various types of fungi, sea turtles, and many species of fish. Think of them as the “rainforests of the oceans.”


Where Can You Find Tropical Coral Reefs?

Coral reefs flourish in shallow areas (less than 120ft, or 37m) in tropical latitudes, or where warm ocean currents flow into more temperate areas. In Florida, tropical coral reefs can be found near the keys around each island. There is a famous coral reef in Florida called "Great Florida Reef" located in the Florida keys.

What Are Some Abiotic & Biotic Factors In A Tropical Coral Reef?

Abiotic = Non-Living components

Biotic = Living organisms


Abiotic

- Oxygen

- Carbon Dioxide

- Water

- Sand

- Rocks

- Shells

- Temperature (Average - 75.4 F)

- Sunlight

- Waves

- Nutrients

- Minerals

- Salinity (Salt dissolved in water)


Biotic

- Octopi

- Seaweed

- Sharks

- Whales

- Crustaceans

- Algae

- Coral

- Turtles

- Anemones

- Sponges

- Mollusks

- Zooplankton

- Bacteria (Ex: Cyanobacteria)

- Moss

- Eels

- Seagrass

- Oyster

- Crabs

- Parrotfish

- Manatees

- Shrimp

Coral Reef Food Web

Here's a little idea of the food web in a Tropical Coral Reef :)
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What Is An Apex Predator In A Tropical Coral Reef?

TROPICAL CORAL REEF SHARK
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About A Tropical Coral Reef Shark

Although they only grow to about 1.6 to 3 meters (5 to 10 feet) in length, these sharks are the apex predators on the very delicate coral reefs. That means, around coral reefs, they are the top of the food chain. The sharks hunt squids, crabs, lobsters, shrimps, and every type of reef fish. What’s interesting is their specific technique. They have found a way to “herd” their prey against reef faces.


Human Impact on This Species


Many shark populations have plummeted in the past three decades as a result of excessive harvesting for their fins, as an incidental catch of fisheries targeting other species. Tropical reef shark numbers have dropped substantially around populated islands, generally by more than 90 percent compared to those at the most untouched reefs.


DID YOU KNOW?


  • Tropical coral reef sharks are known as the "Silent Sea Predator"
  • The gill slits on a tropical coral reef shark is longer than most other varieties of sharks!
  • A specific shark located in the caribbean (a tropical area) known as the grey shark have excellent sense of smell. They can smell tuna fish in 10 billionth part of the water!

Scientific Classification

Domain - Eukaryote

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Chondrichthyes

Order - Carcharhiniformes

Family - Carcharhinidae

Genus - Carcharhinus

Species - C. perezii

What Is The Importance Of Water To A Tropical Coral Reef?

Without water in a coral reef, there would be no reef. If fish didn't have coral reefs it would be very dangerous. Coral reefs are important to fish and life in the sea because they provide protection and shelter for many different species of fish. Without coral reefs, these fish are left homeless with nowhere to live and no where to have their offspring.

The Human Impact To Tropical Coral Reefs

Positive Impact

Humans go fishing it controls the fish population. Another example of a way humans impact coral reef in a positive way is that some people join groups dedicated to saving coral reefs. The groups go around the world educating people about the harm being done to the coral reefs. The also convince people not to buy fish that have been caught by harming the coral reefs.


Negative Impact

Coral Reefs attract tourist every year, bringing much needed currency to the tropical region. The increase in ecotourism is usually accompanied by an increase in reef damage.
Divers and snorkelers may harm the corals by touching the polyps, also while the boats transporting ecotourists to the reef, it may damage the reef by dragging there anchors.
Although ecotourism is responsible for the damage, if it is carefully monitored and managed, ecotourism may actually help preserve these valuable habitats.

Resources

More Info about Coral Reefs

Here's a little video about coral reefs around the world :)
Jonathan Bird's Blue World: Coral Reefs