The Coral Reef Ecosystem: Marine Life And Surviving Underwater

The diversity of creatures living in aquatic ecosystems is symbiotic and reliant towards one another to keep the whole system of marine life moving forward. Coral reef ecosystem plays a huge role in maintaining these aquatic creatures as it provides shelter, food for fishes and humans which is also a source of income for over 500 million people. Some corals are actually a medicine that could fight extreme illnesses like cancer. Most importantly, it protects the ocean's shoreline from extreme weather conditions like floods, storms, aggressive waves, that averts unwanted results like preventing loss of life, property damage, and erosion. However, the public is not fully aware of the damages and dangers that are happening underwater.

The Emmy award-winning Netflix documentary Chasing Corals which debuted in 2017 features the XL Catlin Sea View Survey trying to do just that, inform the people on what is going on under the sea by scientifically recording the reefs around the world. They showcase footages of the corals in a high-resolution, 360-degree panoramic vision for everyone to see.

But underwater photographer Richard Vevers and coral enthusiast Zachary Rago wanted to do more than just be informed about the state of the coral reefs on a big screen. They wanted to see for themselves the situation and for that, they conducted their own research in the Northwestern Hawaiin islands where the temperature is recorded to be 4.7 degrees hot. Taking Richard Vevers actual statement on the documentary, he said “We’ve got an ocean that is the source of life. It controls everything. It controls the weather. It controls the climate. It controls the oxygen we breathe. Without a healthy ocean, we do not have a healthy planet.” The threatening signals and warnings we see above us could also be seen below us. Using the ocean’s present state is a good proxy to scope our current state as a whole.

Their initial plan was to record a time-lapse of certain corals affected by the extremely hot temperature in the ocean for two months by setting a camera underwater. But what happened was the footage they gathered was out of focus and therefore could not be presented as evidence. That is why they have decided to dive on their own and record their own footage every day to capture the bleaching of the corals. The result of the footage can bring one to tears as it shows the dying coral reefs in our ocean.

Global warming unequivocally caused the 'bleachings' that has happened to the corals. Bleaching is when a perfectly healthy coral turns white and these are because there are certain temperatures corals cannot survive in. Corals, similarly, to jellyfishes, could survive for as long as they like as long as their environment allows them to and the bleaching that is happening shows how aquatic environments are changing with the rapid increase of temperature.

Dr. Mark Eakin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coral Reef Watch reveals the sea surface temperature anomaly which shows the series of global mass bleaching that has occurred over the years. The 1st global mass bleaching happened in the years 1997 to 1998. The 2nd time was in 2010. And at the time covered by the study, they were just predicting another global mass bleaching in 2015 which actually happened until 2017. The said global mass bleachings have accelerated the occurrence of mass bleaching. Scientists are saying that a global mass bleaching back in the 1980s has an average rate of once every 25-30 years but now it returns every six years and can be expected to even accelerate.

A team of marine biologists, scientists, photographers, and enthusiasts mentioned went to the Great Barrier Reef which millions of corals are located that is now also suffering coral bleaching which could possibly face an entire coral wipe out if this could not be resolved. The world’s leading coral reef scientists have gathered for the International Coral Reef Symposium to demonstrate the possible shifting ocean temperatures and conditions for the next 30 years. Interestingly, we have lost 50 percent of the world’s corals in the last 30 years. A majority of our population never really sees the importance of the responsibilities or the role corals play to keep our marine life intact. What the public usually misunderstood is that corals are not an oceanic type of accessory but a true living animal that is made up of thousands of small structures called polyps.

With all this alarming information, you would contemplate whether the public is taking action that could help save the aquatic ecosystems from dying. However, with all the extra “baggage” of problems our world is currently facing, for instance, the overwhelming amount of plastic garbage’s that is being improperly disposed of inland, outland or any kind of bodies of water would be a heavy contradistinction to what problem would be the main priority to find solutions for. The climate is continuously changing, and our ocean’s temperature is getting hotter and the corals are still suffering and consistently bleaching, and most of them are already dead. Hoping the news that covers this story or any documented movies and articles about this will serve as a wake-up call to the public and open their eyes to address this issue or we will face a greater consequence on losing them.


  1. Scott, M., & Lindsey, R. (2018, August 1). Unprecedented 3 years of global coral bleaching, 2014–2017: NOAA Retrieved from–2017
09 March 2021
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