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Coral Reefs

The term "coral reef" generally refers to a marine ecosystem in which the main organisms are corals that house algal symbionts, called zooxanthelae, within their tissues. The algae photosynthesize and share this energy with the corals in exchange for protection and access to light. Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world and are therefore often refered to as the "rainforests of the ocean".  Because coral reefs are sensitive to such factors as water temperature, salinity and other chemical and physical factors, they can serve as indicators of environmental changes.

Image: Nick Hobgood

  • Ocean acidification troubles Featured Article Ocean acidification troubles Ocean acidification troubles

    The seas in which corals and other calcifying species dwell are turning acidic, their pH slowly dropping as Earth's oceans acidify in response to increased carbon dioxide... More »

  • Banded butterflyfish Featured Article Banded butterflyfish Banded butterflyfish

    The Banded butterflyfish (Chaetodon striatus) is a member of the butterflyfish family (Family Chaetodontidae) that lives on coral reefs in the Western Atlantic Ocean and... More »

  • French angelfish Featured Article French angelfish French angelfish

    The French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru) is a member of the angelfish family (Family Pomacanthidae) that lives among coral reefs in the Atlantic Ocean. ... More »

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), United States Last Updated on 2013-10-12 23:55:15 The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a federal agency within the United States Department of Commerce.  As a science-based operational agency tasked with monitoring climate and changes in the environment, NOAA is responsible for the study of the atmosphere and the oceans.  The agency issues daily weather forecasts and storm warnings, restores coastline, aids the flow of marine commerce, and manages fisheries.  NOAA's activities facilitate weather- and climate-sensitive economic activity that account for roughly one-third of the country's gross domestic product (GDP)[1]. The agency also responds to natural and man-made maritime disasters, operates a complex network of oceanographic, meteorological and atmospheric data-collecting products and services, and manages marine mammals, marine endangered... More »
Tropical coral reefs and environmental stress Last Updated on 2012-09-01 00:00:00 Corals that host fewer species of algae appear less sensitive to disturbances. The following article is part ten in a series on the National Science Foundation's Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network. Visit parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and nine in this series. Tropical Reefs' Surviving Environmental Stresses: Corals' Choice of Symbiotic Algae May Hold the Key Symbiodinium, it's technically called, but more popularly it's known as zooxanthellae. Either way, these microscopic algae that live within a coral's tissues hold the key to a tropical reef's ability to withstand environmental stresses. The effects on tropical corals of global warming, ocean acidification, pollution, coastal development and overfishing may all come down to how choosy the corals are about their algae tenants. Reef corals are the sum of... More »
Ocean acidification troubles Last Updated on 2012-08-09 00:00:00 The seas in which corals and other calcifying species dwell are turning acidic, their pH slowly dropping as Earth's oceans acidify in response to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Trouble in Paradise: Ocean Acidification This Way Comes Sustainability of tropical corals in question, but some species developing survival mechanisms The following Discovery article is part two in a series on the National Science Foundation's Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) investment. Visit parts one, three, four, five, six and seven in this series. The following is part five in a series on the National Science Foundation's Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network. Visit parts one, two, three, four, six, seven, eight and nine in this series. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble. —Shakespeare,... More »
Oil spills in coral reefs Last Updated on 2010-11-10 00:00:00 Editor's Note: This article is excerpted directly from NOAA, "Oil Spills in Coral Reefs: Planning and Response Considerations, " July 2010. It has been edited only to conform to the Encyclopedia's style guidelines. This guide is intended to serve several functions and several audiences. We hope that resource agency personnel and responders of all types working in or planning for response in coral reef regions will find useful information here. It is not intended to be a specific guide for choosing cleanup methods, as many good versions of these exist already. Rather, we summarize current research on coral reefs from the perspective of those who may need to make decisions about response in these regions and present the information in an accessible format for people with some science or response background. Experienced... More »
United States Fish and Wildlife Service Last Updated on 2010-06-04 16:57:30 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or FWS) is a federal bureau within the Department of the Interior. FWS implements and enforces numerous federal environmental laws in order to "conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people [1]." FWS serves a variety of functions to fulfill its overall responsibilities. The Service monitors and manages endangered species as well as migratory birds, lists endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, restores wildlife habitats and commercial fisheries, manages the National Wildlife Refuge System, exacts revenue through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Recreation Program [2], oversees the distribution of conservation funds to the states, and participates in international conservation efforts. The current director of FWS is Rowan W. Gould, who... More »