Colorado Technical University
For my Phase 1 Individual project, I chose to do my research on the ecosystems of the Coral Reef since I have always had an interest in marine biology. Coral reef ecosystems are one of the oldest and versatile on earth, yet they are also among the most threatened of the ecosystems in the coast and as the human population expand, so do the threats to the reefs.
The coral reefs can be located in clear, shallow ocean waters (due to the fact that they require sunlight), in any of the earth’s oceans that have portions in the tropics, such as, The Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
The Indigo – Pacific – most of Indian Ocean (excluding the Red Sea), and the Western Pacific.
The wider Caribbean – (tropical western Atlantic) which includes Florida, The Bahamas, Caribbean Sea Proper, and coastal waters of northeastern South America.
Some of the abiotic and biotic elements of the coral reef are:
Biotic – plants and bacteria are two major biotic components of the coral reef. The plants convert the sun’s light into energy for food and serve as food for primary consumers. Bacteria act as decomposers for this ecosystem, and they break down dead organic matter and convert it into energy that may then be used by other living things in the ecosystem.
Abiotic – temperature, light, depth and wave movement are some abiotic elements necessary for the coral reef. Temperature is important since coral reefs thrive in water temperatures of 77 – 84 degrees fahrenheit. Some corals have evolved to survive outside of this temperature range such as ahematypic corals. Light is incredibly important for coral reefs because the zooanthellac algae produces food for the coral as well as for itself, the corals are able to survive in such non-nutrious water. In order to photosynthesize, in order to produce food, algae needs light, without light, this ecosystem cannot exist. Depth since coral reefs live in shallow water and are usually found around 197 feet, although ahermatypic corals go far deeper. Wave movements are also important because the motion of the waves helps to take away waste and bring food.
There are many different functions of the coral reef. They act as a physical barrier which helps produce a healthier, protected coastline. The coral reefs also provide food for sea life such as the starfish. It also provides shelter for many other forms of sea life such as fish and small crustaceans. Coral reefs help prevent debris from washing up and damaging the shoreline and can be used for jewelry and medicines as well.
The nitrogen cycle is the pathway for which nitrogen is recycled. It is constantly combined and uncombined with other elements to form essential and nonessential compounds for life. Nitrogenous compounds are required by some organisms for metabolic functions and respiration. The carbon cycle is an important part of life. The sun is the beginning of the carbon cycle because it causes photosynthesis in the plants that the animals will eat. Photosynthesis (when the coral captures sunlight and then turns it into energy) feeding respiration then puts carbon back into the air.
Coral reefs are vulnerable to natural disturbances such as weather-related damage which actually occurs quite frequently. Branching