The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Corals and Our World

March 16, 2023

Scientists consider corals a keystone species because of the many animals and plants that depend on them. Over 7,000 species of plants and animals depend on coral reefs for survival. 

“When corals die from coral bleaching, it upsets the delicate balance of marine ecosystems. Many fish and marine organisms rely on corals to provide food and shelter, and when corals are no longer available, it makes it harder for fish species to survive,” said Heather Rowan, the development operations coordinator of the Coral Reef Alliance.

When corals die from coral bleaching, it upsets the delicate balance of marine ecosystems.”

— Heather Rowan

And it’s not just marine organisms that depend on corals. Over half a billion humans depend on coral reefs as well.

“A lot of money is generated from coral reefs, either through things like fishing on coral reef ecosystems because coral reefs are nurseries for a lot of really important commercial fish species or tourism. For example, in Florida, a lot of tourists want to snorkel and scuba dive in coral reefs,” said Alexis Sturm, who has a doctorate in coral reef ecology and is a science policy fellow for the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force

In addition to the economic benefits of coral reefs, corals provide coastal protection.

“They’re really important for coastal hazards risk mitigation. If you have a big storm that’s coming, which is also worsened by climate change, corals can act as a type of physical barrier that helps prevent the impact from that storm surge from being so detrimental,” Sturm said.

In areas closer to sea level, such as Florida, which is also prone to tropical storms, coral reefs can buffer coastal communities from the worst impacts of the storm. 

If all the reefs disappeared, food, shelter, and spawning grounds for fish and other marine life would vanish, and biodiversity would be significantly diminished.

Benefits of Coral Reefs by Arianna Zhu

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