Coral = tiny, tentacled animals called “polyps” (with a crunchy outer shell!) + algae. They’re ancient!
In addition to giving corals their stylish colors, those algae turn coral wastes into oxygen, sugars, and other important things that keep our waters in check. In turn, corals provide the algae with homes and steady incomes of nutrients.
They’re kind of a big deal.
Even though they cover only 0.1% of earth’s surface, corals harbor at least 25% of known marine creatures. Plus, reef structures provide a barrier that protect our beaches from storms and erosion.
And they can get a little stressed out.
Temperature, light, and food changes all give corals the willies. When they get frazzled, they spit out their colorful algae friends, and they turn white.
A recent study in the Mediterranean shows an 80% decline in coral reef cover. Without their internal food factories, corals get pretty hungry.
Two changes that can cause corals to majorly freak?
- Higher or lower temperature, and plummeting water pH because of increasing levels of CO2 in the ocean from greenhouse gases. Climate change.
- Sea-level rise, declining water quality, and overexploitation of key reef-loving species can also whitewash our waters. When corals bleach, many species find themselves out of their homes.
They’re still around, for now. We have a little time to help make things right. Figure out how to alter our greenhouse gas output. Protect reefs from over-fishing and trawling damage. We can help keep these underwater creatures from drowning.
Written by Roar.
Illustrated by Allison Harn, an illustrator and graphic designer based in Raleigh, NC. By day she works as an illustrator and graphic designer for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Allison is frequently recognized for her versatile style, often consisting of colorful and playful imagery. She has a real passion for all illustration, which usually includes, but is not limited to, food, drinks, animals and nature. When she is not busy designing or illustrating, you can find her deep in her studio painting, running around in the great outdoors, or playing with her cat Khitomer.