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10 Things You Should Know about Corals

December 2, 2015

This #CoralsWeek, learn something new about corals. Here's the bottom line. 

1. Corals are underwater rainforests.

2. Corals have a tiny footprint but a big impact. Covering only about one-tenth of one percent of the ocean floor, they provide habitat for more than 25 percent of marine life.

3. Coral reefs protect shorelines from erosion and storm damage. They also support commercial and recreational fisheries—an estimated annual fishery value of $200 million nationwide and overall value of almost 2.4 billion nationwide (NOAA Summary Report on Economic Value of US Coral Reefs).

4. Shallow corals—the ones snorkelers and scuba divers see on tropical vacations—live all over in  the U.S. Atlantic/Caribbean and Pacific Ocean jurisdictions of the USVI, Puerto Rico, Florida, American Samoa, Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Marian Islands, Hawaiian Islands and Pacific Remote Islands Areas. 

5. Not all corals are found in the tropics.  Deep-sea corals live in cold oceanic waters especially between 200 and 6,000 feet deep. They are extremely slow-growing, but can survive for thousands of years. Scientists have dated living deep-sea corals to be more than 4,000 years old.

6. Coral reefs are gravely threatened by disease, climate change, impacts from fishing activities, and land-based sources of pollution. Once damaged, reefs can take decades to recover.

7. In 2006, two Caribbean Acropora corals were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and a recovery plan was published in 2014. In 2014, twenty other reef-building corals species were also listed under the ESA as threatened, five species in the Caribbean, and 15 in the Indo-Pacific.

8. NOAA's Habitat Focus Area in the Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island in Puerto Rico, West Hawaii Island and Manell-Geus Guam are home to a wide variety of coral reef species hosting a  diverse assemblage of coral and fish species. As part of the Habitat Blueprint, we’re working to protect and enhance coral reef ecosystems showing measurable improvements at HFAs in 3-5 years in near-shore habitats biodiversity, and reduced pollution.

9. One of the primary drivers for elevated management action has been the recent declines in coral of up to 90% in the last 25 years. NOAA through a cross section of mandates and programs is focusing improved coral reef resilience by reducing local stressors and for example enhancing coral populations in the Caribbean by propagation, or growing corals in nurseries and transplanting them to reefs.

10. Another recent factor in coral reef management reefs has been an on-going battel with invasive species. In the Atlantic/Caribbean there are efforts to control the impacts of the introduced lionfish while In the Pacific, there are effort to remove invasive algae—which can smother and kill corals—either by hand, or using a large underwater vacuum called a Super Sucker. This is one of multiple invasive algae species being managed.

Watch the video: Corals: The Bottom Line>>>