Coral reefs and crevices create complex underwater structures. When turbulence is generated by these hard structures, it creates eddies that catch the coral larvae. Because coral larvae are poor swimmer, and are not able to suitable settlement sites on their own, depend on the structures that help shape these eddies, otherwise they are basically lost at sea, with no chance to settle and grow up.
Nowadays, coral reefs around the globe suffer from repeated environmental disturbances, which are only compounded with climate change. According to coral reef experts, maintaining structural complexity of scales on reefs is vitally important in terms of aiding reef recovery. Relevant management actions include limiting factors that reduce complexity, such as destructive fishing practices, and promoting factors that enhance complexity, as algae-eating fish to the area to prevent algae from growing and smothering corals.
Photo: A Flabellum thouarsii coral larvae, showing tentacles and a mouth, by Susie Blaser.
the surin islands are an archipelago of five islands located about forty miles off thailand’s west coast, in the andaman sea. they are preserved as a national park and are uninhabited, save for an isolated village of moken people on one island and a scattering of beach tents on two others. the waters are absolutely pristine and those who lead the snorkeling + diving excursions have an obvious, deep respect for the environment.
there are hardly words to describe my experience here. i was traveling solo at this point and by the time i’d transited from koh tao to the mainland, then to the opposite coast, navigated an overnight in phuket, and taken the two hour boat ride to these remote islands, i literally felt as though i’d been dropped at the edge of the world.
i spent three days on and around the islands, snorkeling for a few hours in the morning, breaking for lunch + time on the beach, and snorkeling for a couple more hours in the afternoon until the tide got too low. at the end of the day, the longtail boat would drop me near the island i was staying on, i’d wade to shore with my bag, take a short trek through the jungle, and come out on the bay side where the tents were. the camping area had basic amenities – cold showers and a small canteen that turned out all kinds of fresh seafood, fruits, and veggies. the tents were right on the shore and listening to the waves lap all night was incredibly peaceful.
i had the same snorkel guide – nicknamed “brow” – all three days. he’d direct the boat to various reefs around the islands [depending on tide, weather, expected visibility, etc] and then we’d just drop into the water off the boat. we’d swim for 45 minutes or so, before moving to another spot. a few different people, including a couple friendly australian girls, rotated through at various points, but the group was always tiny and on a couple outings, it was just me, brow, and the longtail driver. the two of us built a good rapport and i was grateful for his sharp eye in the water. he helped me spot so many creatures i would have otherwise missed! i got to swim with black tip reef sharks [!] and sea turtles, and hundreds of brilliant tropical marine species, including parrot fish, clown fish, wrasse, lion fish, moray eels, angel fish, butterfly fish, giant sea urchins, and sea snakes. the water was brilliant and crystal clear. on the brightest days, the colorful reefs looked truly illuminated as the sunlight scattered over them. it was an experience i’ll never forget.
Dry Tortugas National Park: Florida Established 1992 The Dry Tortugas on the west end of the Florida Keys are the site of Fort Jefferson, the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere. With most of the park being water, it is the home of coral reefs and shipwrecks and is only accessible by plane or boat.
Thousands of species of marine animals live and thrive in the coral reefs. Coral reefs are an essential part to these animals ecosystem and they need coral reefs to survive. With the downfall of coral reefs, the marine animals will fall with it.