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We love coral reefs so much, we make movies about them and try to recreate their wonder in glass fish tanks. But underneath all this delicate beauty is a powerhouse for the environment. Fascinated? This TED-Ed lesson will teach you more: Conserving our spectacular, vulnerable coral reefs by Joshua Drew.
Clams, clown fish, eels, and blue tangs are all here because of the abundant amount of oxygen produced by all the photosynthesis occurring within the zooxanthellae algae and other photosynthetic microorganisms that thrive here under the protection of the corals. Learn more about coral reef fish with this TED-Ed lesson: The secret lives of baby fish by Amy McDermott. Specifically, zooxanthellae can transfer as much as 90% of the organic products created through photosynthesis to their coral host. With such an abundant food source, corals can continue to thrive, grow and build the expansive reef systems we have become accustomed to seeing if snorkelling in warm, tropical waters or in films. Learn more about what exactly a coral reef is here. Some of those reef systems began growing over 50 million years ago, making reef systems an even more ancient museum of life than our old growth redwood forests.
Warmer waters due to climate change and ocean acidification due to increased carbon in the atmosphere have left coral reefs battling for survival. But there are lots of ways we can work together to help conserve coral reefs, even if we live far away from them. Simple things, like not purchasing coral reef fish for presents and choosing sustainable seafood for meals can make a big impact. Need more information? Take a look here.
You can also get involved with conservationists working on protecting habitat and innovative solutions to slow down the loss of coral reefs. Interested? Visit the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program.
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