Wow! Koh Tao has really been putting on a show since I’ve arrived. Its crystal clear waters, wonderful marine life, and insane sunsets are a few of the regular wonders here. It is truly a blessing to have the opportunity to return back to the New Heaven Reef Conservation Program and so far it has been six weeks of learning and brain overloading! I love every second of it.
Over the course of my time here I would love to be able to share some knowledge to my fellow Akua mermaids about some of the amazing marine life our oceans have to offer, as well as some of the conservation work the NHRCP team here in Thailand commits to year after year.
I thought the perfect way to start would be to give a brief overview to what a coral actually is. I mean, they are the organisms that support coral reef ecosystems and support 25% of marine life in the ocean- even though coral reefs only cover about 0.1% of the oceans floor! So they are insanely cool, but to be honest- until I originally came to the NHRCP as a student with Akua Oceanwear founder Zoe, I hadn’t a clue what they really were or how they worked.
So here we go! Corals are not a plant, rock or mineral. They are actually animals- and are in the same phylum as jellyfish and sea anemones. When we imagine a hard coral, most of us probably imagine some colourful rock taking the shape of a big round brain, or perhaps a branch or bush. What this actually is is a coral colony consisting of potentially thousands of little polyps.
These individual polyps are the animals, and they clone themselves in order to make the colony grow. They consist of a mouth, a gut and small tentacles to help pull food in for digestion. They also contain special little algae called zooxanthellae which are tiny little plants which the coral polyps have a nice (and incredibly important) symbiotic relationship with. These algae photosynthesise (a chemical reaction which all plants perform- which turns energy from sunlight into energy which the plants can utilize), and they share the energy they produce with their coral polyp host. The algae actually provide the coral host with about 75-95% of their energy requirements, so it’s a pretty fantastic relationship to have, as the coral receives ‘food’ (to grow and reproduce with) and the algae is provided with a safe home.
There are about 1,300 species of coral and they can grow in a huge variety of shapes and each of these can provide different functions for the ecosystems which they support. They provide habitat to a multitude of other marine life, including many juvenile fishes which take shelter in the many ‘branching’ types of corals. They also are eaten by many animals, and any coral that dies can provide a substrate for new corals to colonise.
Corals provide protection to coastal areas from storms, provides us with countless medicines, they are incredibly beautiful and are a huge source of income for communities relying on income from tourism, and also are a source of food for many coastal communities around the world. Another biggie is that they help support the rest of our oceans ecosystem functions which provide us with 50% of the oxygen we need. Every other breath we take came from the sea so our reliance on this incredible ecosystem is indescribable. Corals provide an incredible amount of benefits to us mermaids, these were just some of the most important.
So, get out there and see it ladies! Help protect our oceans, and keep on supporting environmentally friendly brands like Akua Oceanwear.
You’re children will thank you for it <3
Until next month!
ALL CORAL REEF PHOTOGRAPHY HAS BEEN DONE BY AMAZING UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHER @ELLEHASKIN