Coral, submarin Gardens
Color on the bottom of the sea
The underwater world of the Dominican Republic keeps a great secret: natural coral reefs, one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country.
The largest concentration of these reefs is located on the banks of La Plata and Montecristi. By area, we speak of Pedernales, followed by Bayahibe and to a lesser extent, Bavaro, Samana, Las Terrenas and Puerto Plata. In each one a great variety of stunning corals can be seen, some of great size.
But, what are coral reefs and how are they formed? Unlike what was thought at first, corals are colonial animals of the Anthozoa class. Each colony consists of thousands of polyps (symmetrical and genetically identical) that require sunlight, so they tend to grow in clear, shallow waters. Its tentacles serve to trap plankton and small fish with which it feeds, although most corals live a symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic unicellular algae (zooxanthellae) from which they obtain most of the nutrients.
Zooxanthellae and pigment tissues of corals are what give them the color, because the chalky structure is white. Thus, we can find, corals that are black, red, blue, green, pink...
As for reefs, they are large calcareous structures over time colonized by different coral polyps, as these will die and be replaced. They are one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth and are home to about 25% of marine organisms. The longest reef is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, followed by the Mesoamerican Reef in the Caribbean Sea.
Kinds and Reproduction
When talking about the kinds of corals there is no scientific consensus. Some speak of soft and hard corals, but also micropolyps or macropolyps. Another classification divides them in hermatypic or stony corals and ahermatypic. The first ones build reefs thanks to its hard skeleton, which they get by secreting calcium carbonate. The latter have eight tentacles, are flexible and tend to be perforated. They achieve consistency through the spicules (microscopic crystals of calcite). In the Caribbean stony corals species such as brain coral, acropora, Dendrogyra and Leptopsammia predominate.
Regarding its reproduction, it can be sexual (for most), asexual or both. Most corals spawn by diffusion, releasing gametes of eggs and sperm into the water. The eggs are carried by the ocean currents until a planulae larva forms and attaches to rocks to begin the metamorphosis and becomes a polyp. This process usually takes two or three days.
At the present time, reefs are disappearing from the seabed. To major human threats (coral mining, overfishing, blast fishing, pollution) global ones (ocean acidification, rising temperatures and sea levels, coral diseases) are added, so we must act together to declare them protected areas.
One of the activities being carried out to conserve coral reefs is gardening, which is to create underwater coral nurseries using endangered species and then transplanting them into degraded reefs. This activity is being promoted within the tourists of the Dominican Republic through the Puntacana Ecological Foundation and the Multilateral Investment Fund. The Dominican Reef Check Foundation also works to save the reefs.
In the country there are 15 protected areas in which 43% of Dominican reefs live. Studies report a significant percentage of reef reduction if nothing is done to protect them.
Tags: Fauna and Flora