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Coral Reef Alert

Scientists are on a mission off the coast of Florida. 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 called coral polyps (PAHL ihps).

Coral reefs are home to thousands 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.

The Health of Coral Reefs

Coral polyps create hard skeletons around themselves. The skeletons are made of calcium. Calcium also makes up your skeleton! When coral polyps die, they leave behind their skeletons. They form coral reefs. Young polyps attach themselves to the old skeletons. Over time, the reef grows larger, and other sea animals make their home in it.

A recent report says many coral reefs in United States waters are in bad health. Coral reefs face many threats. The polyps that make the reefs are in danger of dying. Millions of tourists visit the reefs each year. People can kill polyps simply by touching them. Ships that drop anchors on the reefs damage them. Other threats include storms and pollution.

The scientists in Florida and elsewhere are trying to save the coral reefs. They are telling people about the threat to these underwater structures. If enough people know about the problems, maybe they will act to save the reefs.