Hidden beneath the ocean water, is the coral reefs team of life. Fish, corals, lobsters, clams, sponges, seahorses, sea turtles are only a few of hundreds of thousands of creatures that rely on reefs for their survival. I think that coral reefs are beautiful and I find that ecosystem of a reef is fascinating. Despite the fact that Corals look like rock or plants they are definitely marine animals. Corals life begins in tropical water as floating larvae. After a short period of time the larvae attaches itself to a hard surface and becomes a polyp. Corals are related to the jellyfish some people say that a coral looks like a jelly fish upside down due to a coral having a lot of tiny polyps. A single coral polyp may be as large as a saucer or small as the top of a pinhead. There are billions of polyps working together in a cooperative colony. Generation after generation creating a limestone skeleton that forms the framework of the beautiful coral reefs. Coral Reefs grow very slowly. It could take up to a hundred years for a reef to grow 3ft. (Best&Bornbusch, 2001)
Coral Reefs have been in existence for over 215 million years and located in tropical waters. The earths ocean floors cover more than 70% of our planet's surface and 97% of that water is found in the ocean. As everyone knows ocean water is salty and the reason being is due to the salinity in the water. The two ions found in seawater are chloride and sodium. The salt in the ocean's water has a lot of chemicals in it such as potassium, magnesium sulfate and calcium. There are rocks in the lakes and streams that play a major part in this process. When it rains inland it contains some dissolved carbon dioxide from the surrounding air which causes the rain water to have an acidic carbon. The rain physically erodes the rock with the acid chemically breaking down the rocks and carrying minerals along in a dissolved state as ions. At this point the ions are carried through the waters eventually flowing into the ocean. A lot of organism in the ocean uses up the dissolved ions and some are removed from the water but what is not used up are left for a long period of time where their concentrations increase over time. There are also more sources that produce the ions (salinity) in the ocean waters such as a hydrothermal vent. The hydrothermal vent is on the ocean crest ridges and has recently been discovered to contribute to the process of dissolving minerals due to the crust becoming hotter. Which the minerals flows back into the ocean waters. Submarine Volcanism is another process of salinity in the ocean's water due to the seawater reacting with the hot rock from the volcano eruption that dissolves some minerals to produce the ions into the water.
Different bodies of water have different amounts of salt mixed in, or different salinities. Salinity is expressed by the amount of salt found in 1,000 grams of water. Therefore, if we have 1 gram of salt and 1,000 grams of water, the salinity is 1 part per thousand, or ppt. () The average ocean salinity is 35ppt. This number varies between about 32 and 37 ppt. Rainfall, evaporation, river runoff and ice formation cause these variations. (Reefs&People, 2009)
Scientists estimate that of the coral reefs cover range is 0.01-.0.5% of the ocean floor. (Reefs&People, 2009) The growth of reefs starts small and grows large. They have been found in depths of water less than 150ft where the sunlight can penetrate. Due to the symbiotic relationship with a type of microscopic algae, sunlight is necessary for these corals to thrive and grow. Reef building corals require warm ocean temperatures of 68-82 Fahrenheit. Reefs development is generally more abundant in areas that are subject to strong wave action due to the face waves carry food, nutrients and oxygen to the reef along distributing coral larvae and prevent sediment from settling on the coral reef.