The colourful “flowers” of the underwater world
What are corals?
Corals are invertebrates (creatures that have no backbone) that belong to the Cnidaria phylum which has a diverse group of creatures.
They come in a broad range of colors, forms, and sizes. There are many types of corals but they all have the same basic structure: a stomach with a single mouth hole encircled by stinging tentacles.
Corals may exist as solitary or colonial organisms. Over time they form massive underwater structures called coral reefs, which are home to a huge variety of marine life.
Corals are related to jellyfish, and sea anemones!
Corals are generally classified as either “hard coral” or “soft coral”.
Hard corals are also known as the ‘reef building’ corals, as they produce a calcium carbonate exoskeleton (or external skeleton). Each coral generation builds on the skeletal remnants of previous generations, forming rock-like reefs. These skeletons are the usual image of corals that we think of.
Meanwhile, soft corals which include sea fans, sea feathers, and sea whips, don’t have a rock-like skeleton like the hard corals. Instead, they grow wood-like cores for support and a fleshy outer for protection
There are currently more than 2000 identified species of corals, of which more than 590 are found in Indonesian waters. Corals found in Indonesia include Isopora togianensis, Indophyllia macassarensi, and Acropora suharsonoi found in the Togean Islands, Makassar, and Lombok respectively.
Coral Reefs and Coral Triangle
Coral reefs are large structures consisting of skeletons of corals. Although spanning only 0.5% of the ocean floor, they are able to support a huge variety of marine species. By acting as a shelter or habitat, coral reefs support about 6000 species of fish (or around 30% of the total marine fish species).
The Coral Triangle encompasses six Southeast Asian and Pacific countries (Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste). It is well-known for its vast biodiversity, which is unrivaled in other areas.
Despite covering just 1% of the Earth's water surface, the Coral Triangle contains 30% of the world's coral reefs, 76% of the world's reef-building corals, and over 35% of the world's coral reef fish species.
Coral reefs are ecologically linked to seagrass, mangrove, and mudflat habitats, and they are also vital as an ecosystem for marine life.
Coral reefs defend coasts from the harmful impacts of strong wave currents and tropical storms, as well as providing habitat and refuge for a variety of marine creatures. Additionally, coral reefs serve as a supply of nitrogen and other critical nutrients for marine food chains.
Corals and Climate Change
While they do not play a direct role in carbon sequestration, coral reef ecosystems are one of the most susceptible habitats to the rapidly accelerating effects of climate change. Climate change has brought about changes such as:
Coral bleaching: A direct result of rising ocean temperatures.
Rising sea levels: Increase in sedimentation of coral habitat may lead to the erosion of corals
Changes in weather patterns and harsher storms: Increased destruction of coral reefs
Ocean acidification (decrease in the ocean’s pH): Reduces the rate of growth of corals, and decreases the structural integrity of the corals
Changes in sea currents: Disrupts the natural flow of food for corals and reduces the reproduction rate of the corals
Changes in weather precipitation: Increase in algae blooms, reducing the amount of light which may reach the corals
Sadly, around 14% of the world’s coral reefs have been damaged or destroyed due to climate change in the past ten years. The total area affected is around 11,700 km2—an area twice the size of Bali.
What CarbonEthics is doing to help
Currently, CarbonEthics has 2 coral planting sites, Pramuka Island and Padang Bali. We have teamed up with coastal communities by training them in blue carbon knowledge, planting skills, monitoring skills and also financial management.
As of June 2021, we have helped increase the local communities’ income in Petani Pesisir Dompak Laut (PPDL) by 83%. Aside from that, CarbonEthics has given gear to communities as well as training sessions in order to equip them with the right tools for blue carbon conservation.
What You can do to help
CarbonEthics currently has an initiative that helps the restoration of corals in locations across Indonesia! Help us by adopting a baby coral, or multiple ones, to ensure coastal protection and marine conservation at their respective locations. Click the links below to understand more about the donation packets!