A coral reef is a community in which thousands of different organisms and creatures live and feed off of. Many types of coral rely on these different creatures for their survival. In a single coral colony there are easily thousands of polyps, if not more. Polyps are typically carnivorous, feeding on small particles floating in the water. This is what helps the coral reef to grow and to expand. There are also other creatures that house themselves in a coral reef that help the coral obtain the necessary nutrients for growth. This endosymbiotic algae known as zooxanthellae provide important sources of nutrition to the coral reef.
Corals reproduce both sexually and asexually. This is what is responsible for the rapid growth of the coral reef. In fact, an entire colony many meters in diameter could have started out as a single polyp. Because many coral reef organisms can tolerate only a narrow range of environmental conditions, reefs are sensitive to damage from environmental changes. Therefore, they are only found in various locations throughout the world. The simple fact that a coral reef is susceptible to diseases and bleaching makes it a rare and exotic organism. Also, dramatic natural events such as hurricanes can damage the coral reef. Because of the important ecological and economic roles coral reef communities fulfill, an understanding of the stresses and dangers to the reefs is necessary.
The coral reef is a natural phenomenon that many people enjoy looking at. Found in various locations throughout the world, most coral reef organisms are hard to care for. They are not privy to drastic changes, so if they are introduced into a environment that is not typical for their liking, they will react negatively, and may even begin dying off. In order to help preserve the coral reef, it is important to make sure that its natural conditions are as close to natural as possible.