Unit 7: Science Connection

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Coral Reef Alert

Florida Locator Map

Many underwater creatures live in coral reefs. Now scientists say the reefs are in danger. Off the coast of Florida, scientists are on a mission. They dive 35 feet to the ocean floor. There they check to see if a coral reef has been damaged.

A coral reef is an underwater structure. It is built by thousands of tiny sea animals. Those animals are called coral polyps.

Coral reefs are important to ocean life. The reefs are home to thousands of species, or kinds, of sea creatures. “If you didn't have the reefs, you wouldn't have the fish or the pretty sponges or soft corals that wave back and forth,” said scientist Richard Dodge.

How Coral Reefs Are Made

Coral polyps create hard skeletons around themselves. The skeletons form coral reefs. The skeletons are made of calcium. Calcium is the same thing that makes up your skeleton! When coral polyps die, they leave behind their skeletons. Young polyps attach themselves to the old skeletons.

A recent report says many coral reefs in U.S. waters are in bad health. The polyps that make the reefs are in danger of dying. Scientists, such as the ones in Florida, are trying to save the reefs.

Coral reefs face many threats. Millions of tourists visit coral reefs every year. People kill corals by simply touching them. Ships that drop anchors on the reefs can damage them. Other threats include storms, pollution, and disease.

Scientists want to make the public aware of the threat to coral reefs. They are using the report on coral reefs to do just that. “It's a valuable tool for raising public awareness about the global decline of these unique treasures,” said government official Craig Manson.

Word Wise

A warning of danger: Paul worried that the raccoon was a threat to his vegetable garden.

A heavy metal device that is attached to a ship; an anchor keeps the ship in place by its weight or by catching on the bottom of a body of water: The sailors dropped anchor to keep the ship from drifting.

Conscious of something: I am aware of the fact that the computer is broken.

To sink to a weaker or lower state: After the storm, the number of flowers in the garden declined.

Relating to the entire world: Some scientists worry about global warming.

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Make a glossary for the Coral Reef Alert article. Choose ten words, and find their definitions in a dictionary. Write the words and their definitions. Use each word in a sentence, and draw a picture to go with each definition. You may include the words that have already been defined for you.

Data Hunt

Work with a partner. Imagine that you are scientists working to preserve the coral reefs off the coast of Florida. Create a list of threats to the coral reefs. For each of the threats, list a possible solution to the problem.