Coral Reef Ecosystems

A Coral Reef Ecosystem is a group of diverse species living together in a particular environment. Initially the sun is used for an energy source for this system, but the presence of different plants and animals allows for the use of photosynthesis as an energy source, as the plants and animals are all part of the food and energy chain needed to sustain life. The environment, the plants and the animals all contribute to the health of the ecosystem where they are found.

Coral reefs are found in many places, but in particular they are found in tropical and sub-tropical areas, in particular in the Western part of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Indo-Pacific( where the Indian Ocean meets the Pacific). The Atlantic reefs are found near Bermuda and the Bahamas, as well as near Florida. The Indo-Pacific ones extend from the Red Sea to as far away as parts of California.

Coral reefs are generally found about forty six miles deep in the ocean, a depth where sunlight is able to penetrate. Because sunlight is important, the more clear the water is, the better the sunlight can get through to the reef. In addition to clear water and a particular depth, water temperature is important. Generally, water should be between 68 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Better reef formation occurs in areas where there is a great deal of wave action. Wave action helps to move nutrients, oxygen and food necessary for the maintenance of the reef, to the area.

Many colors can be present in a coral reef. It is the natural colors in the coral tissues that gives the reef its red, blue, yellow, orange or purple color. Algae present in the reef often give the reef a green or brown color.

Some of the animals found in coral reefs include: sponges, sea anemones, and crustaceans, such as shrimp, crabs and lobsters. You can also find snails, squid and clams.

Sponges are important animals in the coral reef ecosystem as they are used for shelter for many small animals. Sea anemones are important because they have a symbiotic relationship with clownfish and anemone fishes. The Crustaceans play an important role in removing parasites from the reef.

Fish play an important role in the upkeep of the reefs. They are important in the food web, where they function as predators and as food substances (their waste) for other animals in the reef.

Coral reefs have a very important relationship with the microscopic algae that live inside the corals tissues. This is a symbiotic relationship since they both benefit. Through photosynthesis the algae give off oxygen and carbohydrates that are used by the backbone of the coral reef, something necessary for it to keep its structure. The algae on the other hand, gets carbon dioxide from the respiration that the reefs undergo.

Not much is known about how long a particular coral reef may be in existence. A lot depends on how well all of the parts of the ecosystem works. The presence of pollution and sewage and other man made problems certainly will affect the health and longevity of the coral reef.