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When this happens the animal inside of coral dies and leaves behind a white skeleton — so the image you're looking at above, for example, is basically a coral graveyard. But more on that later.
Other than the fact that they are very pretty to look at?
Fun Ocean Fact: The National Ocean Service suggests that we've only explored a mere FIVE PERCENT of the oceans on Earth, so it's possible that many other forms of life in the ocean depend on the coral ecosystem, too.
I never knew how fish and coral have a symbiotic relationship, and that fish actually make their homes inside of them. And just listen to this chain reaction that stems from the fish/coral connection, per The Guardian:
When the coral dies, the entire ecosystem around it transforms. Fish that feed on the coral, use it as shelter, or nibble on the algae that grows among it die or move away. The bigger fish that feed on those fish disappear too. But the cascading effects don’t stop there. Birds that eat fish lose their energy source, and island plants that thrive on bird droppings can be depleted. And, of course, people who rely on reefs for food, income or shelter from waves – some half a billion people worldwide – lose their vital resource.
I could stare at this GIF of everyone eating, sleeping, breathing, and commuting in the same coral "city" for hours.
I don't know why I'd always assumed it was some kind of dormant rock, but coral is very much alive. They're so alive that they're some of the oldest beings on this earth at over 25 million years old!
The reefs help to calm the wild waters heading towards land and also help protect against coastal erosion. Shorelines everywhere thank you, coral!
Fishing trips! Diving! Hotels! Restaurants! Fish to eat! Places to get your hair beaded or braided by the beach! All of these income sources come back to the reefs.
If it didn't, the Earth's regular temperature would go from it's normal average of about 58 degrees to over 122 degrees. Another fun (aka frightening) ocean fact!
This is not good for life under the sea — sorry, Ariel.
When the water becomes too hot, corals expel the algae that lives inside of them, causing their coral to turn white.
They used underwater cameras to painstakingly track the progress of the coral each and every day for 40 days.
As I stated earlier, Chasing Coral is a good place to start and is out on Netflix as of today!
There are many resources that will help you to figure out how much you or your family are personally contributing to the warming of our planet. Whether it's rethinking your commute to work, recycling, switching lightbulbs, planting trees, conserving water, lowering your meat intake — every little choice you make adds up! (Don't know where to even begin? Try this Carbon Footprint quiz!)
People don't tend to notice or think about what's going on underneath sea level for the simple reason that it's just not something we have to look at often. That's where you come in — now that you know we're at risk of losing our coral reefs, help the cause by sharing your knowledge with whoever will listen (and maybe even those who won't).