The deep turquoise blue in the corner of the Pacific Ocean, whipping through the extremes of waves, both choppy and calm in nature – a slight tang of tuna with a pinch of salt would scratch the taste of this huge sector of the sea. The vast oceans of the world are beautiful, massive areas in which millions upon millions of aquatic creatures make their homes and survive, often without even coming close to the great land masses of the world, and are, in the words of Sir David Attenborough:
“One place in the world where our destructive impact is
less immediately obvious” (Attenborough: 60 Years in
The earths great oceans are the lifeblood of nature, so to speak, they are where the smallest and the largest of creatures that have ever lived upon this earth dwell; from the gigantic, mysterious blue whales to the tiny, microscopic single-celled organisms that form the basis of much of the oceans dinner, the oceans also play a key part in the support of the earths climate and its magnificent waves and glorious tides are governed by the orbit of the moon.
On a smaller but not in any way less important level, the oceans and seas are the environment in which a crucial habitat for all types of aquatic wildlife thrives – coral reef. The various coral reefs of the earths waters are in fact entire ecosystems, jungles of the underwater world, structures of calcium carbonate (limestone, like you would find on land) that is secreted by living marine invertebrates called corals- these are in the same family as jellyfish and sea anemones I believe, and they are, on an even smaller level – made up of tiny, sac like, tentacled creatures called polyps.
Now, I’ve described coral reefs as aquatic jungles, this is because they, like jungles that we see on land, contain such a large range of diverse and complicated animals, and that still depends on the area of the reef; different reefs will have different ecosystems that will support different life, and if you’ve actually seen a coral reef with your own eyes you will have had the chance to glimpse this diversity in all of it’s fantastic, colourful beauty – the iridescent eels swaying hypnotically in the moving water from beneath rich, red corals, the electric blues and greens of tropical fish, darting here and there as they evade the snapping jaws of the eels, various crustaceans; crabs, lobsters, etc. appearing in a multitude of shapes and sizes as they scuttle and drag themselves over the harder sponges. Akin to delicately shaped statues, the refined body of a coral, plus it’s brilliant range of colours, provide a beautiful habitat alongside its other properties. The odd shark- blue, mako or even lemon -carefully picking it’s way through alien shaped spires and spikes of coloured coral, searching for a meal, seas snakes; weaving their way in and out of tunnels of coral in the half light of a blue sea, striped backs rippling like the water they dwell in.
I’ve just described what would appear to me to be a wildlife rich habitat…and I’ve only described about a millionth of the life that lives down there in the reefs.
But these reefs also require almost pitch perfect conditions in which to survive in; a slight change in the temperature of the water around them, whether increasing or decreasing, could have devastating effect, great swathes of coral reef have already succumb to this due to our planet’s now changing climate – as the organism that keeps the reef together dies out, it leaves a hard skeleton of limestone, pale and white in appearance – a ghostly reminder of the past life it used to lead. As the reef dies, it’s not just an organism that dies, an entire ecosystem dies, and all of the aquatic organisms that live and thrive in this environment will be displaced and may die out almost immediately due to loss of habitat and food sources, this means an entire race of creatures could die out just because of a slight rise or decrease in temperature of the sea, and this rise or decrease is often due to human activity; although the coral succumbs to slight rises in temperature, they can adapt to the natural changes of the ocean in day and night, it is the temperature change caused by environmental change that can prove fatal.
But it’s not only temperature that harms these elaborate creatures- as our population grows ever larger we require even more food, and this means that nasty side effects such as overfishing occur more and more frequently. But how does this affect coral reefs? Well, when fishing in bulk, fishermen will trail the heavy, weighted nets along the sea bed in order to trap as many fish as possibly, but this greatly disturbs the sea bed and can sometimes even destroy entire reefs as it scrapes and smashes corals and other aquatic invertebrates.
Okay, after all of that I think we now have a considerable set of reasons to protect this environment, after all, I would want this to be here for future generations to love and protect as well, and I would most certainly love to be able to enjoy and protect it for the entirety of my lifetime.