How Old Are Coral Reefs?
We wish to support conservation organizations and spread the word about how we need to act now in order to save our coral reefs. They are under a huge amount of threat, with mass coral bleaching events occurring regularly, and reefs all across the globe dying.
We are at a crisis point right now, and the whole world will be affected if coral reefs die.
However, in order to understand the significance of coral reefs dying, we need to understand the significance of coral reefs living. We need to not only spread the word about the devastation that climate change is causing but also about the wonders of coral reefs and the amazing things they do for the world.
One thing that is so fantastic about coral reefs is their age. We know coral reefs are old, but most of us don’t actually understand how old and why this is really important when it comes to reef conservation. Because coral reefs are really old and they grow at such a slow speed, the rate at which they are dying is extremely scary.
So how old exactly are coral reefs and how about the individual corals?
How Old Are Coral Reefs?
Coral reefs are huge structures under the sea that are composed of the skeletons of hard corals. They form when coral larvae attach themselves to a hard underwater surface such as a rock, then grow and reproduce.
New polyps of hard corals grow on top of the skeletons of the older hard corals, and soft corals will grow. More wildlife then flock and take refuge in the coral reefs, creating amazing biodiversity in the area.
However, the process of this takes a long time. From the first coral larvae attaching itself to the area to the coral reefs we see today, a lot of change and development has occurred. According to sciencing.com, the majority of the coral reefs are about 5,000 to 10,000 years old. However, the ancestors of these corals are probably older, dating back to 240 million years ago.
This means that coral reefs are pretty old in regards to how the earth and humans have developed. According to history.com, 10,000 years ago was the Paleolithic era where humans were living in caves and huts, using basic tools and hunting and gathering.
If you consider the changes that humanity has gone through since then, it is truly astonishing to think that the coral reefs we see today were around that long ago. They were here long before the technologies and the advances of humanity, and we must do our best to ensure they will be protected from human interaction.
How Old is the Great Barrier Reef?
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world and has a wonderful array of creatures and wildlife. The biodiversity in the area is incredible, with many species of turtles, fish, sea birds, and invertebrates finding refuge amongst the coral reef.
According to Live Science, the Great Barrier Reef is around 500,000 years old with reefs growing in the area for millennia. However, the current formation of corals is probably around 6,000 to 8,000 years old.
How Long Do Individual Coral Colonies Live?
Coral reefs are made up of coral colonies. These are the thing that we refer to as corals, with hard corals looking like rock formations and soft corals looking more like plants. However, there is such a range of what corals look like, from different colors and shapes!
The coral colonies are made up of polyps, which is the animal. They are small creatures with each one having a tiny mouth surrounded by tentacles. Each coral colony is made up of a lot of these polyps, depending on the size of the polyps and the size of the colony.
The individual polyps only live for a year or so, and when they die the skeleton becomes a foundation for a new polyp.
Individual colonies can live for quite a while, with some coral colonies surviving for centuries. In fact, according to nature.com, some species of coral might have colonies that live for over 4,000 years!
How Fast Do Corals Grow?
There are different factors that affect the growth of a coral. It depends on the species, the water salinity, temperature, and nutrients. How fast the water flows also have an impact on the growth rate of corals.
Most of the corals that make up the coral reefs are slow-growing, never growing more than an inch a year. However, there are some coral species such as branching corals that can grow up to eight inches a year.
Considering the rate of growth of coral colonies and the vastness of coral reefs, it really shows us how long these coral reefs have been forming and growing. It has taken them so long to get to the point where they are at today.
We Cannot Let Them Be Destroyed
Coral reefs are some of the oldest ecosystems in the world. From the first coral larvae that attached themselves to the rockwork, to the magnificent biodiversity that we see today, the corals have taken centuries to grow and form.
In this time of growth, humanity has also been growing. Humans have also developed, going through revolutions and ages that have changed the world. There have been amazing things that humans have done, and the wish to progress is a strong and wonderful aspect of humanity.
However, humanity has also caused havoc and destruction during this time. We have managed to reverse thousands of years of coral growth in a matter of decades. Because of global warming and the massive amount of pollution from human development and industry, coral reefs are getting destroyed. The beautiful ecosystems that took thousands of years to grow are now under extreme pressure. According to the BBC, The Great Barrier Reef has lost over half its corals since 1995.
The rate of destruction needs to be stopped before it is too late and all the corals in our oceans die and the ecosystem is destroyed. This is why we are spreading the word about the importance of coral reefs and the horrific damage and pressure they are under right now because of humans.