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For those who have had the good fortune to view our planet from space, they are struck by the overwhelming impression that ours is a blue planet. Indeed over 70% of our planet is covered by water giving our home this blue aura. On closer inspection, patches of emerald and aquamarine become apparent in the larger expanse of deep blue. These patches are in the shallow waters of the tropics, fringing islands and the edges of continents; or, in turn, encircled by the ring-like islands that we call atolls.
Coming ever closer to Earth and approaching these oceanic jewels, a border of white is perceived which is revealed to be surf crashing against what appears to be a solid bastion of rock. Leaving our vantage point from above and diving into the sea, we discover that what we think is solid rock is in fact a living mass - a kaleidoscopic vision of color, shape, and life that is a coral reef.

Coral reefs are among the most amazing of ecosystems on our planet. Although found as solitary forms through 400 million years of geological history, the fossil record shows that corals evolved into modern reef-building organisms within the past 25 million years. Over those millions of years, coral reefs have evolved into the rainforests of the sea –a place of great biological diversity that is home to thousands of species that are found no where else. In fact, coral reefs are the most complex, species-rich, and productive of marine ecosystems.

Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species. Scientists estimate that there may be another 1 to 8 million undiscovered species of organisms living in and around reefs (Reaka-Kudla, 1997). This biodiversity is considered key to finding new medicines for the 21st century. Many drugs are now being developed from coral reef animals and plants as possible cures for cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, viruses, and other diseases.

Coral reefs buffer adjacent shorelines from wave action and prevent erosion, property damage and loss of life. Reefs also protect the highly productive wetlands along the coast, as well as ports and harbors and the economies they support. Globally, half a billion people are estimated to live within 100 kilometers of a coral reef and benefit from its production and protection.

Click here for more information on the importance of Coral Reefs.

The Altered Sea
Ocean Parks Help Corals Rebound
Although this finding does not apply to all marine reserves throughout the world for example, coral reefs in the Pacific support a more complex food web it is broadly true of any Caribbean marine reserve. And it may provide these reefs with the kind of resilience necessary to survive the host of threats that face them, from human fishing practices to climate change. (Scientific American) .... more info
Things that Hurt on the Reef
For divers and especially new divers, entering the sea loaded by pounds of equipment and a ton of anxiety, many have a fear of being injured by marine life especially in tropical waters. Much of this is misdirected as most of the creatures we fear are in our imagination.... more info

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