Among the most valuable ecosystems on Earth, coral reefs provide humans with billions of dollars in economic and environmental services such as food, protection for coasts, and tourism. Coral ecosystems face serious threats, mainly from the impacts from climate change, unsustainable fishing, and land-based pollution. Together, these and other threats are decimating corals faster than they can adapt for survival. This section of the site is meant to demonstrate the value of these ecosystems and provide an informational resource about coral and coral ecosystems. For an additional resource, visit 'Five Things You Should Know About Coral Reefs.'
- a solitary or colonial polyp, from the class Anthozoa, that secretes a calcareous skeleton
- the hard, calcareous or rock-like skeletal deposit secreted by certain Anthozoans
- such skeletons collectively (which form reefs, etc. in warm seas)
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin corallium, from Greek korallion
Date of origin: 14th century [a]
A mound or ridge of living coral, coral skeletons, and calcium carbonate deposits from other organisms such as calcareous algae, mollusks, and protozoans. Most coral reefs form in warm, shallow sea waters and rise to or near the surface, generally in the form of a barrier reef, fringing reef, or atoll. Coral reefs grow upward from the sea floor as the polyps of new corals cement themselves to the skeletons of those below and in turn provide support for algae and other organisms whose calcium carbonate secretions serve to bind the skeletons together.
Date of origin: mid-18th century
Rainforests of the Seas
This designation is due to the fact that coral reefs house the largest marine biodiversity on the globe, rivaling that found in rainforests. [b]
What does a coral polyp look like? How does a reef form? How fast does coral grow? This section of the Website is designed for anyone wanting to learn the basics about coral and coral ecosystems. Links to more in-depth information and additional resources are also provided.
Value of Coral Ecosystems
Why should anyone care about coral ecosystems? How much are coral reefs worth to humankind? Whether you are looking for dollar values or less concrete services that these ecosystems provide, this section of the site is designed to demonstrate the value of these unique ecosystems and what we stand to lose if they are lost.
Need an escape? Always wanted to see what creatures live on a reef? Dive into this painting of a Caribbean reef by renowned marine artist, Wyland. Various reef species depicted in the painting are interactive; clicking on them will link to a photo and basic information on the species, its role in a reef ecosystem, and a threat to the species.