← Coral reefs are living things made of coral polyps. Coral reefs are large strips of wave-resistant coral rocks built up by carbonate organisms lying close to the surface of the sea and even sometimes rising above the sea level. In the Caribbean, there are generally three types of coral reefs: ← Barrier reefs are to be found parallel to the coast and are usually separated by a shallow but wide area of water called a lagoon. Belize has one of the second largest barrier reefs.
← Fringing reefs are low platforms of corals, 0.5 km. to 2.5 km. Wide, lying close to the shore of an island or continental shelf, but separated by narrow lagoons; its outer edge descends sharply into the sea. These are most common in the Caribbean.
← Atoll reefs tend to form a horseshoe. They are usually linked to a sunken volcanic cone.
BENEFITS OF CORAL REEFS
Coral reefs are very much part of the Caribbean culture and we have learned to use them to enhance our economic well-being through fishing and tourism, and have become conscious of their value in sustaining the physical environment.
← Coral reefs are natural tourist attractions. The Bahamas and Jamaica are well known for their beautiful coral. They are also attractions in most Caribbean islands.
← Coral reefs are breeding grounds for fish.
← They are a food supply as well as a habitat for flora and fauna.
← They add to biodiversity which is important. Flora and fauna for example flora and fauna have medicinal ad economic value. Some have been known to secrete substances to protect themselves from predators and these chemicals have been found to be medicinally useful to humans.
← They provide a barrier to destructive waves or for breaking waves and reducing the effect of storm surges. This allows wetland ecosystems such as mangroves and swamps to survive and grow. Mangroves provide valuable fisheries, ecotourism attractions and ecological benefits to man.
CONTRIBUTIONS OF CORAL REEFS TO CARIBBEAN SOCIETY AND CULTURE ← Biodiversity
o They are ecosystems which support a wide variety of marine life (flora and fauna). This aids with tourism as well as fishing.
o Ingredients of some medicines include chemicals found in sponges found on Caribbean reefs. This has both positive economic and social effects.
o Potential sun screens
o Adventure tourism
o Reproduces sand which provides us with the beautiful shorelines many tourists find very attractive.
o Employment for many
← Coastal protection
o Coral reefs help to prevent coastal erosion by reducing the effect of the waves and wind;
o They also aid in the preservation of mangroves and other wetlands *which also add to the diversity in flora and fauna).
← Culture and identity
o Influencing both economic and recreational activities
THREATS TO CORAL REEFS
← Weather systems such as ESNO
← Global warming (results in warm temperatures which kills algae living in the polyps)
← Dust from the Sahara introduces soil fungi which destroys some species of reefs
← Droughts and desertification
← Bleaching events
← Dangers posed by the environment in the form of hurricanes that deposit tons of sand on reefs as well as destroy reefs by ripping them from the ocean floor.
← Pollution, in the form of detergents and other chemicals, stimulates algal growth which develops over living corals and kills them (eutrophication). ← Increased silting and sedimentation which prevents algae growth within polyps
← Building of hotels which drain wetlands and change the contours of the coast. Coastal development in the form of hotels and marinas involve construction, quarrying and dredging, the...