Coral reefs are structures that have merged together into limestone. It consists of a collection of biological communities that make up one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Corals themselves are actually small immobile animals that belong to the group cnidaria. They sustain themselves by catching prey, such as small fish and planktonic animals, with their tentacles. Corals generally live in colonies. Together these colonies secrete a hard calcium carbonate skeleton, which is what we see as the colorful shaped reef. These skeletons protect the coral from predators as well as help to create mutually beneficial relationship with algae.

Despite the fact that coral reefs only covers about .2% of the ocean’s bottom, they house more than 25% of marine life. Coral reefs are typically found in tropical regions such as Australia, Belize, and Hawaii. While they have been around for millions of years, scientists believe that due to human behavior, almost 10% of Earth’s coral reefs have been destroyed. Some causes of their destruction have been fishermen dynamiting the seas, human sewage, industrial runoff, etc. Fortunately as countries have realized the importance of coral reefs, some have placed special protections on them in order to defer further deterioration.

Coral reefs play a large role as nurseries and in fishery. They have also become popular sites among tourists, making them economically profitable. They provide protection from erosion to coastlines and sand for beaches. In recent years there has been an increasing amount of efforts to help conserve coral reefs. For example, the EPA is continuously working on developing a set of guidelines for watershed. To find out more information on what the EPA’s coral reef conservation efforts visit their Coastal Watershed Factsheet.