Rebuilding the Reef
Posted: January 1, 2021
What is coral?
Is it alive? Yes.
Is it a plant? No—even though it roots into the ocean floor like a plant would.
Is it an animal? Yes—even though it has no face.
Coral are invertebrates related to jellyfish. They use their tiny arms to grab passing food (unlike plants, which make their own food). Individual corals are called polyps. They join together to build complex, statue-like structures on the seafloor. Lots of these teensy animals together make a reef—a huge home for other sea life. About 25 percent of the world’s ocean creatures live in coral reefs, even though reefs are just a teeny-tiny part of the sea.
Coral reefs matter—and not just to fish. Underwater reefs act as a barrier. They help protect people on land from surging storm waves caused by hurricanes. And reefs make productive fishing spots. Human diets and economies depend on healthy reefs for communities to fish.
Many coral reefs are in trouble. Seawater acidity, pollution, and water temperatures all affect coral health. “Bleaching” happens when corals get stressed. In harmful conditions, the tiny animals may eject the brightly colored plants that grow on their reef. These plants are the corals’ primary food and oxygen source. When the plants go, the reef will “bleach,” or turn bone-white. That color shift almost always means that individual polyps in the colony will die—usually bringing death to the reef. Many non-coral marine animals survive these stresses—but they still need a home.
God made people the crown of His creation. He gave us a big job: taking care of the world. So people scout for sea life solutions. Some plant new coral in reefs. Others breed coral types that survive stress well. They save them in “super-coral” banks in case people need them in the future. Others, including the train car dumpers in New York City, make artificial reefs. These steel and aluminum fish condos are cleaned up before the big sink. Workers strip off windows and doors. They make sure no oil remains. (They want to save sea life, not poison it!)
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. — Genesis 2:15