Coral Reefs

Called the “rain forests of the sea,” coral reefs are important ocean ecosystems that support a quarter of all marine organisms despite covering less than one percent of the sea floor.

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Corals, sponges, and algae are the major components of most coral reef communities as shown in this picture.

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Corals and Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are the most diverse of all marine ecosystems. They teem with life, with perhaps one quarter of all ocean...
Nuclear bomb in Bikini Atoll

Naturally Resilient

Coral Reefs Can Recover From Disasters. How Can We Save Them From Us? by Michael Webster, Coral Reef Alliance In 1946, the US military tested nuclear bombs on a coral reef in the Pacific,...
Two coral trout swim on a reef in Fiji.

Having Your Fish and Eating Them Too

Credit: Taveuni Palms Resort, Flickr by Laura Brodbeck A special type of marine protected area (MPA) called a “no-take zone” bans the removal of marine life from designated areas. At first glance, they seem...

Helpful Herbivores

Convict surgeonfish are the roaming sheep of the reef but, instead of noshing on grass, they feed on algae. Credit: Michael Webster When snorkeling in the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area (KHFMA) in West...

Coralline Algae: The Unsung Architects of Coral Reefs

Many species of pink coralline algae, which cements coral reefs together, cover a reef surface in the Southern Line Islands. Credit: Maggie D. Johnson, Scripps Institution of Oceanography Stare at a tide pool and...

Where the Shark and the Snapper Roam

Grey reef sharks are among the most versatile and tough predators on a Pacific coral reef, but they are also among the most vulnerable species, as they are threatened by wasteful fishing practices like...

From Despair to Repair

Sit down with two veteran marine scientists, Dr. Nancy Knowlton and Dr. Jeremy Jackson, who fell in love with each other and the reefs of the Caribbean 40 years ago. Those reefs are now...
This queen parrotfish scrapes algae from Caribbean reefs with its parrot-like beak.

From Despair to Repair: Protecting Parrotfish Can Help Bring Back Caribbean Coral Reefs

Sit down with two veteran marine scientists, Dr. Nancy Knowlton and Dr. Jeremy Jackson, who fell in love with each other and the reefs of the Caribbean 40 years ago. Those reefs are now...
Pink crustose algae covers the surface of a rock.

Microbes Help Corals Pick a Home and Settle Down

Like pink paint, crustose coralline algae covers the surface of the rock in a thin layer. This hard surface is a preferred home for the larvae of coral and other invertebrates (such as abalone)...

Cabo Pulmo – Giving Optimism to Coral Reefs

Video of World Heritage Biosphere Reserve On the east coast of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula lies a small marine protected area that represents one of the most impressive successes in ocean conservation. by Amanda...
The coastline of American Samoa National Marine Sanctuary

The Reefs of American Samoa: A Story of Hope

American Samoa National Marine Sanctuary comprises a fringing coral reef ecosystem nestled within an eroded volcanic crater on the island of Tutuila, American Samoa. Credit: Wendy Cover Sometimes called the rainforests of the sea,...

Charles Darwin's Ocean Upwelling

The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System consists of the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, offshore atolls, and several hundred sand cays, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons, and estuaries. The system's seven sites illustrate...
Happy World Ocean Day!

Coral Letters: A Message from the Corals of Curacao

If you look closely, you can read a message in the corals. We are not being metaphorical. Barry and Aimee Brown set out to search for hidden letters among brain coral colonies two years...

Lionfish on the Loose

The majestic and highly predatory red lionfish ( Pterois volitans ) , native to the Indo-Pacific, is invading Atlantic waters. The lionfish is a popular home aquarium species, and some were most likely dumped...

Coral Under Pressure: Monitoring Bleaching In Real Time

A coral head in the Mesoamerican Reef has both bleached and living coral. The white sections are bleached and the brown parts still contain zooxanthellae, the symbiotic algae that provide food to their coral...

What Makes Sponges Grow?

Sponges are animals that eat tiny food particles as they pump water through their bodies. They are very common on Caribbean coral reefs, and come in all shapes, sizes and colors. There is great...

Slow Life: Time-Lapse on the Coral Reef

How does a coral spend its day? Most of us would say: not doing much. To the human eye, a coral looks relatively still, waiting in the current and hoping some food will run...
Turbinolia stephensoni

Ocean Objects of Wonder

An unidentified earplug from the National Museum of Natural History collection. The light and dark layers come from a build up of keratin and lipids and can be used to estimate whale age. Credit:...

Coral Comeback

Diverse and beautiful, coral reefs have been in the ocean for almost 500 million years. They only make up one-tenth of one percent of the ocean floor, yet up to 25 percent of marine...

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