Phantasmagorical forests in the ocean | Sunday Observer

Phantasmagorical forests in the ocean

22 January, 2023

Forests are the world’s air-conditioning systems – the lungs of the planet. According to Mark Plotkin, the rain forests hold answers to questions we have yet to ask. Not only terrestrially but also in oceans the forests exist.

These amazing forests represent some of the world’s most spectacular beauty spots, and they are also the foundation of marine life. The forests that most exquisite marine lives inhabit are undoubtedly ‘The Rainforests of the ocean’.

Coral reefs are the most vulnerable marine ecosystem on earth. They’re incontrovertibly critical parts of the ocean. Most people don’t realise the importance of the coral reef system to the tune of its multi-billion-dollar value. Although these ecosystems only occupy 0.01 percent of the seafloor, they bristle with life and around one-quarter of all ocean species depend on reefs for food and shelter.

This important branch of marine ecosystem is the foundation of the ocean’s food chain, from tiny plankton to the largest creatures in the ocean. They face local and global hazards including overfishing, deposition, marine pollution and increasing ocean warming and acidification.

Climate change is one of the natural factors that impacted coral reefs and was caused by the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Rising ocean temperatures are disturbing the symbiosis between coral organisms and algae. Thermal stress results in bleached corals. It has become the main cause of coral mortality in the past 20 years. The rising ocean temperature can also affect the growth and reproduction of corals.

Coastal communities

The death of coral also represents a huge loss to our environment. Coral reefs also have a significant impact on coastal communities, with one billion people are being serviced from their existence. The loss of coral reefs would amount to an economic disaster, depriving fishermen of their main source of income and undermining the tourism industry.

They also secure shorelines from flooding during extreme storms. As the coral reefs die, shorelines become more susceptible to damage and flooding from storms, hurricanes and cyclones. Scientists develop medicines from coral reef organisms as treatments for Cancer, Arthritis and Viruses.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of coral loss is what it suggests about the future. The fragile nature of coral reefs leaves them hypersensitive to climate change. There’s much that we can do to protect coral reefs. Well-defended reefs generally have much healthier coral populations and are more flexible.

Fish play important roles in coral reefs, particularly, the fish that eat seaweeds and keep them from smothering corals, and also, they eat the predators of corals, such as the Crown of Thorns Starfish.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are an important tool for keeping reefs healthy. Large MPAs cover the Great Barrier Reef and the North-western Hawaiian Islets. Smaller ones, managed by local communities, have been veritably successful in developing countries.

Pure water is also important to the growth of reefs. Erosion on land causes rivers to dump mud on reefs and seawater with too many nutrients speeding up the growth of seaweeds and increasing the food for predators of corals. To say that someone is growing a century-old coral back to life sounds like science fiction.

But the word ‘Micro-fragmentation’ implies that the statement is correct. Micro- fragmentation is a technique that allows corals to grow more than 25 times faster than normal. Initially, corals are broken into small pieces, using a specialised saw. It stimulates the coral tissue to grow and allows them to grow, into clones at 25 to 50 times the normal growth rate.


The fragments are then placed in shallow water tanks at 22–26 degree Celsius. Clone fragments recognise one other and instead of fighting one other for resources, they would fuse together to form larger colonies.

After 4 -12 months, the fully grown corals are ready to be planted back into the ocean or fragmented to restart the process. The recombined colonies become sexually mature, which would usually take up to 75 years. This technology has the potential, to make a major contribution to coral restoration.

Corals are the Heart of the Ocean, so we must make it a point to safeguard the coral reefs. With that, future generations will be able to enjoy the natural beauty of our oceans.