Caribbean Studies Internal Assessment: Coral Reefs

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  • Topic: Coral reef, Coral, Great Barrier Reef
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  • Published : August 6, 2012
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CHAPTER TWO:
THE LITERATURE REVIEW
CHAPTER TWO:
THE LITERATURE REVIEW

Coral reefs have been dubbed the ‘gardens of the sea.’ Burke and Maidens (2004) describe them as both physical structures and complex ecosystems. The physical structure is formed from the secretions of calcium carbonate by tiny marine organisms called coral polyps, which forms a shell around them (Mohammed, 2007). These shells become cemented together and remain when the reef building polyps die. The basic units of reef growth then are the coral polyps and symbiotic algae that live in the coral tissues which are responsible for creating food from sunlight. This symbiotic relationship is the key factor explaining both the productivity of reefs and the rather strict environmental requirement of corals (Cesar, 2004). This physical structure with a living veneer of corals on its surface provides a haven for a diversity of marine flora and fauna to make up the coral reef ecosystem (Burke et al, 2011). Coral reefs comprise less than one-tenth of one percent of the world’s marine environment, yet are home to at least twenty-five percent of all known marine species. Different structural types of coral reefs are distinguished but only some exist within the Caribbean:

i. Fringing reefs are the most common type of coral reefs. They develop adjacent to the shore usually along rocky coasts of uplifted islands or along the shores of exposed limestone islands. Burke and Maidens (2004) estimated that 1010-1260 square kilometres of fringing reefs surround Jamaica’s 825 kilometres of coastline. ii. Barrier reefs develop sometimes rather far away from coastlines in areas where coral growth has kept up with gradual drop of the sea-bed. Off Belize coast exists the second largest barrier reef in the world. iii. Finally, atolls are circular reefs that arise from deep sea platforms such as submerged volcanic seamounts. These are rare in the Caribbean, but some are found in the hundreds of islands of...
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