EarthLabs > Corals

Corals: Unit Overview

Why study corals?

Blue tangs swimming in an elkhorn coral forest. Photo courtesy of CCMA Biogeography Team

The bright colors, unique shapes, and variety of exotic life in and around coral reefs make them a natural source of wonder and delight. But coral reefs are much more than just ornamental showpieces along the ocean floor. Coral reefs are often compared to rainforests for the vast biodiversity they support. Despite covering only one five-hundredth of the ocean floor, more than one fourth of all marine fish species call coral reefs home. Reefs also support economies by attracting tourists, protect coastal communities from the potentially damaging effects of storms, and may hold the secrets to curing fatal diseases.

With 40% of the planet's coral reefs now in critical condition or already degraded beyond recovery and our marine fisheries under severe threat, the very wellbeing of our planet depends on students like you gaining a working knowledge of coral ecosystems and acting in ways to preserve them.

What will I learn?

This unit will introduce you to many of the complex issues surrounding coral reefs. The 8 investigations in this unit incorporate some of the most current research data and visualizations available. Using data from a variety of sources, you will learn about the influences of both humans and the environment on the health and vitality of coral reefs.

Key Questions addressed by this unit include:

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