For many years environmentalists have stressed the importance of coral to the environment. Scientists estimate some kinds of coral have existed on earth for hundreds of millions of years. Currently, though, anthropogenic activity, especially CO2 emissions, pose a significant threat to coral populations. Coral reefs are irreplaceable; by implementing conservation strategies, protection plans, and climate change mitigation strategies, we can help preserve some of the most invaluable organisms on the planet.
What is Coral?
Coral are polyps that create a hard limestone reef. “Coral polyps are tiny, soft-bodied organisms related to sea anemones and jellyfish. At their base is a hard, protective limestone skeleton called a calicle, which forms the structure of coral reefs.”
Polyps use the limestone to protect their soft and vulnerable bodies. Although coral and coral polyps are not one organism, polyps (actually considered an animal,) create the limestone coral as though they are one organism. This happens when “a polyp attaches itself to a rock on the sea floor, then divides, or buds, into thousands of clones. The polyp calicles connect to one another, creating a colony that acts as a single organism.” Coral polyps share a symbiotic relationship with the algae that grows on the limestone, known as zooxanthellae, which give the coral its vibrant colors.