Coral reefs are the most diverse of all marine ecosystems. They teem with life, with about one-quarter of all ocean species depending on reefs for food and shelter at some point in their lifecycle.
Stony coral skeletons are the foundation of these reef systems. They create a three-dimensional structure that provides habitat, food, and protection for other organisms. In this video, we’ll describe some of the other major plant and animal groups and their roles in contributing to a balanced coral reef ecosystem.
Knowing what organisms live and depend on reef systems and how they interact with each other is important for understanding what will happen to species and reefs when they are threatened or out of balance. Currently, they are threatened by changes in temperature and water chemistry from climate change, destructive and overfishing practices, nutrient run-off and pollution, invasive species, and disease.
Scientists from around the world are cataloging the biodiversity of reef systems so that we are better equipped to predict how they may change when facing these threats, and ultimately, so we can learn how to conserve and protect them. Some of these scientists are part of the Smithsonian MarineGEO & Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network.
This video is an extension activity for the museum's Reefs Unleashed digital school program for Grades 6-12.
About Smithsonian MarineGEO
Smithsonian MarineGEO is a team of scientists from the Smithsonian and our partners all around the world, working together to solve an important mystery of science. The mystery is how the amazing variety of sea life works together to keep the ocean healthy for animals and people, with clean water, lots of fish for us to eat, and safe places for animals to live where they're protected from climate change and other threats. We look for answers by diving into the ocean and identifying the kinds of animals living in different habitats, how many there are, what they're doing, and how all those things are changing. The ocean is massive, so it takes a team of all kinds of people to get the job done. The MarineGEO teams knows that the best way to discover more about the ocean is to do it together.