Coral Reef Ecosystems
Unit：Marine Conservation Division
Corals are marine invertebrates classified under the phylum Cnidaria. Their bodies consist of mesoglea sandwiched between two layers of epithelium (i.e., an ectoderm and endoderm). The ectoderm is where cnidocytes are found. Polyps are the living parts of corals and are the contributors of colonial corals in most corals (e.g., Acropora austere); said colonia l corals are formed by polyps undergoing asexual reproduction. However, solitary corals (e.g., mushroom corals) also exist. When polyps grow, they accumulate calcium carbonate, for ming calcareous bones that in turn become coral reefs.
Corals are found in all parts of Taiwan, including the Northeast Corner, Kenting, Green Island, Orchid Island, Hsiao Liouciou Island, Penghu Islands, Pratas Islands, and Taiping Is land. Taiwanese corals can be divided into two types: non-reefal coral communities and tropical coral reefs. The distribution of corals is determined by climate and ocean currents. Because non-reefal coral communities are exposed to water temperatures lower than those required for reef-building corals to grow, they grow on hard matrix and do not form coral r eefs. Non-reefal coral communities are primarily found on rocky shores in Northern Taiwan, the inner seas of Penghu Islands, and the northern seas of Penghu Islands. In contrast, t ropical coral reefs are mainly found in Southern Taiwan, Green Island, Orchid Island, Hsiao Liouciou Island, Penghu Islands, Pratas Islands, and Taiping Island, where temperatures are suitable for corals to grow.
Coral reef ecosystems are the most “productive ” and biologically rich ecosystems in the oceans. Their complex structure and environment provide not only marine life with habitat and food sources, but also coastal residents wit h means of livelihood and for developing marine tourism. Coral reef ecosystems support people ’s livelihood, prevent coastal erosion, reduce the magnitude of severe weather-led waves, and ensure coastal stability.