Live coral

Lang: “Coral reefs are hot spots of marine diversity and productivity in the tropics.”

That’s Judith Lang, a biologist with the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment – a group of scientists who are assessing the health of coral reefs in the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. In addition to being one of the most beautiful of all marine habitats.

Judith Lang
Judith Lang

Lang: “They’re incredibly important. The reef corals provide homes in the form of habitat, and shelter, and spawning areas and even nursery grounds for many kinds of fish and other sea creatures.”

Corals also provide a home for a specific type of symbiotic algae. The algae use the carbon dioxide produced by the corals for photosynthesis. And the corals use the oxygen and carbohydrates produced by the algae to grow.

Dead coral

But when corals are stressed, they expel the algae, turn white, and can die. Bleached corals can sometimes recover, but they’re more susceptible to disease.

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And as ocean temperatures warm, coral bleaching events are becoming more frequent and widespread. Just last year, a bleaching event occurred on a global scale, with potentially devastating effects on these critical “rainforests of the sea.”

Reporting credit: Pam Memmott/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photos: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) Program
What is coral bleaching?
The 3rd global coral bleaching event – 2014/2016
How global warming is driving mass coral bleaching

Sara Peach is the editor-in-chief of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist,...