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Coral reefs are found mostly in warm, shallow, and tropical seas, because the reef-forming corals cannot live in water colder than 65 °F (18 °C). Reefs abound throughout the South Pacific, in the East Indies and the Indian Ocean to Sri Lanka, and around Madagascar on the southeastern African coast. They also form along the tropical eastern coast of Brazil, through the West Indies, along the Florida coast, and at Bermuda. There are three types of coral reefs: (1) fringing reefs; (2) barrier reefs; and (3) atolls.
Fringing reefs are submerged platforms of living coral animals that extend from the shore into the sea.
Barrier reefs follow the shoreline, but are separated from it by water. They form a barrier between the water near the shore and the open sea. A barrier reef may consist of a long series of reefs separated by channels of open water. Such reefs usually surround volcanic islands of the South Pacific. The Great Barrier Reef of Australia, about 1,250 miles (2,010 kilometers) long, is the largest coral reef in the world.
An atoll is a ring-shaped coral island in the open sea. It forms when coral builds up on a submerged mudbank or on the rim of the crater of a sunken volcano. The atoll surrounds a body of water called a lagoon. One or more channels connnect the lagoon to the open sea. Many coral islands of the South Pacific Ocean are atolls.
Coral reefs do not develop on the east coast of North America north of Florida and Bermuda. But small patches of coral grow as far north as New England. Certain kinds of coral grow as far north as the Arctic Circle.
LOSS OF CRITICAL ECOSYSTEMS
The region is losing not just tropical forests, but a number of other critically important ecosystems, such as savanna- grasslands, hill and mountain forests and coastal wetlands (including mangrove swamps, seagrasses and coral reefs). With human populations crowding coastlines throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, it is not surprising that the region has lost nearly half of its coastal wetlands--including salt marshes and ponds, estuaries and mangrove swamps--to development. At the same time, near-shore seagrass beds and coral reefs have been snuffed out by erosion sediment from dredging and coastal reclamation or fouled by algal growth triggered by excessive nutrient pollution from agriculture and from untreated urban sewage. The Caribbean, which contains 14 percent of the world's coral reefs, is losing its reefs at an accelerating rate. The Australian Institute of Marine Science estimates that 70 percent of all coral resources are at risk from pollution, sedimentation, unsustainable fishing practices and boat-anchor damage. The only coral communities in stable condition are those off Belize, Panama and a few islands in the Lesser Antilles.
Amount of mangrove forests lost in Puerto Rico since the arrival of the Europeans: 75%.
Percent of all global vertebrate extinctions that have occurred in the Caribbean Basin: 40%.
Kelp is any of a variety of large, brown seaweeds that grow underwater and on rocky shores. Kelps are found in cold waters throughout the world. They do not grow in tropical waters.
Many marine animals, such as snails and sea urchins, feed on kelps. Other animals, including lobsters and many fish, use kelps for shelter. People in China and Japan grow kelp for food on special farms in the ocean. In the United States and many other countries, kelps are collected from the places where they grow naturally. For example, giant kelp is harvested along the coast of California. Harvested kelps yield algin, a substance that is used in the manufacture of ice cream, salad dressing, beer, paper, cosmetics, and many other products. Kelps are also used as animal feed and as fertilizer.
Offshore, coral reefs, kelp forests, seagrass beds, and other shallow water habitats are endangered by the combination of direct destruction and pollution from land. Coral reefs are of particular concern. They line more than 100,000 kilometers of coa...
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