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Coral, Pacific Northwest

Coral, Pacific Northwest
Orange Sea Pen, Photo By Bud Logan

Most people when they think of Coral, envision warm tropical waters, but you can find a stunning variety of corals that live in the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest. They make their homes in deep water on sandy bottoms and rocky reefs along the Pacific Northwest Coast.

Reefs are mostly made by stony corals. Each individual stony coral polyp secretes a skeleton of calcium carbonate. Over long periods of time, these skeletons can create incredibly large  reefs, with some colonies consisting of millions of coral polyps living atop the remains of former colonies. Most established reefs are quite old, some as old as 10,000 years, others much older. It’s estimated that some existing reefs began growing over 50 million years ago.

Reefs are extremely complex and provide habitat for many other life forms. In fact, they support over 20 percent of all known marine species, including more than 4,000 species of fish, 700 species of coral, and thousands of other plants and animals including the sea pens.

Reefs are very important to the marine environment and they are in danger. There are 2 major threats to reefs, ocean acidification and bottom trawling. Ocean acidification changes the chemistry of seawater, this makes it harder to build skeletons that are strong and able to survive. A bottom trawler can wipe out a deep sea reef with one pass of its net, not just destroying the reef, but also the habitat for just about every other species that lives there.

Reefs are the communities of the sea. Reefs are created when there is greater growth over death. We need healthy oceans to make this happen, unfortunately, we are polluting our oceans rapidly and we are seeing coral reefs die off as a result.

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