WORLD REEF DAY brings awareness to the indispensability of our coral ecosystems — half of which have already been lost due to climate change.
Coral — colorful, critical and changing. Today, on WORLD REEF DAY, we celebrate them and their fragility.
Did you know?
- Corals are not plants and they aren’t shells — they are animals. And some of the oldest; studies indicate some corals can live for 5,000 years. Like trees, corals have growth rings, which helps us determine their age.
- Corals are very sophisticated creatures. They are actually composed of thousands of smaller animals — polyps — which are related to sea anemones and jellyfish. These polyps connect to one another, creating a single organism or colony. When these colonies grow and join with others, they become reefs.
- There are two main types of coral: hard and soft. Hard corals are the “reef-building” corals, providing the structure of a coral reef. There are over 800 different variations of hard coral. Soft corals are bendable and look more like plants. These corals help provide protection for the reef.
- Coral reefs only make up one percent of the ocean floor. Yet, because they are within reach to sunlight and provide protection, they support a quarter of ocean life. Each resident of the reef has a unique role to play — from coral-eating, sand-producing parrotfish to population-controlling reef sharks, sheltering sea anemones to pygmy seahorse (a new type of which was only just discovered in 2020).
- Most of the world’s coral reefs appear in six countries: Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and the Maldives. But, over 100 countries have a coral reef near their borders.
- The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on Earth, spanning over 2,200 km (1,400 mi) and dating back nearly 20,000 years ago.
- Coral reefs provide food and income for over a billion people, and amass $2.7 trillion (about the GDP of France) a year in tourism, coast protection and food.
What is bleaching — and why is it threatening our coral reefs?