Forests in the Ocean

Published on 15/05/2011

First Update 17/03/2017

Existing for over 500 million years, the coral reefs, are the marine equivalent of the tropical rain forests. Inhabiting less than about 0.17 % of the total ocean floor, they harbour more than 25 % of all marine species and are responsible for 12 % of the global marine fish catch. Found mostly in shallow, warm and clear water, the coral reefs serve as a giant carbon sink and also a source of oxygen. Reefs are built up by coral polyps, to which are animals so tiny that it takes about 80,000 animals to make one  kilogram of coal reef.

The colourless animals secrete an exoskeleton of Sodium Carbonate and live in close association with a kind of algae called zooxanthallae. The algae impart the beautiful colours to the corals and through photosynthesis build their own food and nourish the coral polyps in exchange for shelter in their bony skeletons. Apart from other predators the starfish  is a major threat to coral reefs. One Star fish can devour atleast one sq. metre of coral reef in a day. It sits on a reef and discharges its gastric juice to digest the coral polyps before devouring them.

The discharge of gastric juice is likely to damage more reef than required by the star fish. Even if the star fish were to be damaged, each cut piece has the capacity to grow into an adult star fish. This compounds the problem. Living corals and ornamental fishes from the reefs are in demand in the international aquarium trade.

Coral reefs are an extremely beautiful manifestation of the supreme creator. A living reef inhales and exhales with sucking, grasping, filtering animals. Coral variety is magnificent. Whip corals, mushroom corals, brain corals, fan corals present a beautiful array of colours and shapes. Within these gracefully play the periwinkles, sea slugs, star fishes and sea urchins. Sea anemones add to the parade by gracefully waving their transluscent wands. Above the corals are the free swimmers – colourful seaworms, octopuses, crabs, feather stars, sea cucumbers, brittle stars, a huge variety of sponges, shrimps, other crustaceans.

A host of colourful fishes , hundreds of species, including the parrot fish, the puffer fish and the beautiful butterfly fish add myriad colours to this world.

The Interdependence of Species 

All these species in the universe live together in an intricate pattern of interdependency. In no case do individual species live in a vacuum. All these interrelation ships are means of capturing and conveying the energy from the sun, which drives all of life processes on the planet. We the human species have been dependant on other species since the beginning of our time, estimated at about 500,000 years. Human development is very deeply linked to the capacity of mankind to derive benefits from the use of wild species. The natural environment is too important for us. At stake is our own survival. Transnational gene pools have been proved to be of immense global benefits. Conservation of nature’s energy system is also critical to world stability. Sustained economic and social development throughout the world depends on how we manage these renewable world resources.

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