Sunday, February 3, 2013

FTV 2/3/2013 Jamaica's Coral Reefs

Situated below Cuba and west of Haiti, Jamaica is a small Caribbean island located below Cuba and west of Haiti,with about  5 million residents. Tourism is this country's main industry, with many cruise lines docking in Jamaica's ports every day.

Jamaica's reef is on the fringe of the northern coast, naturally growing on a narrow shelf around the island. It is less structured in the south, where river sediment breaks up coral growth on a shallower, wide shelf.
Jamaica's coral reef is deteriorating at an alarming rate due to the overuse of reef resources, coastal erosion along the coast as a result of farming, and the over development of the coastal regions to meet the needs of the increasing tourist industry. Additionally, tropical storms and hurricanes cause destruction to the coral reefs, physically blasting apart their very foundations.

In recent years, as people began to care more about the environment, scientists began to study the coral reefs. Efforts are being made to restore the reefs through stricter laws to help help prevent erosion, pollution, and fishing problems. 

Coral reefs are fragile ecosystems that dependent on a narrow range of environmental conditions to develop and grow, slight variations in temperature, water quality and sea level easily affect them. Climate change is a particular threat to reefs because corals cannot survive if the water temperature is too high. Global warming has already led to increased levels of coral bleaching, and this is predicted to increase in frequency and severity in the coming decades. Such bleaching events may be the final nail in the coffin for already stressed coral reefs and reef ecosystems.

All coral reefs began life as single polyp which is a tiny, soft marine animal like a small sea anemone that is attached to a hard surface. "Stony" coral species (order Scleractinia) live as colonies and exude calcium carbonate, which forms an external skeleton. As the polyps grow and die, these stony corals create the reefs that we know. There are also other coral and coral-like species, including soft corals (order Alcyonacea) which do not form a skeleton.

Coral polyps have stinging tentacles that they use to catch food. During the day, these tentacles are usually tucked away, out of reach of hungry fish and other marine animals. But at night they unfold to catch their prey, plankton which flows by the reef with the current.

There are three basic kinds of coral reefs: fringing reefs, barrier reefs, and atolls. Fringing reefs grow in shallow waters close to the coast. Barrier reefs are separated from land by a lagoon, and grow parallel to the coast and forming a large and continuous reef. Atolls are ring-shaped reefs that develop near the sea surface.

Here are some activities that demonstrate the effects of climate change on reefs and oceans.
Use satellite data to predict coral bleaching events.
Build a model coral reef.
Try this coral reef crossword.

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