Sea creatures find home in coral graveyard
A coral reef is a living graveyard where millions of coral animals (called polyps) live on the bones of their predecessors.
When they die, their skeletons are the foundation for the next generation. But reefs also support thousands of other creatures.
Reef-forming coral extract minerals from sea water to construct their skeletons. Piled one above the other and fused into a mass, they form a limestone rock on which the living plants and animals of the reef grow.
The Great Barrier Reef of Australia has enough limestone to build Egypt's largest pyramid eight million times.
Coral reefs and lagoons con tain an amazing community of living creatures. Although most corals eat only plankton, they act as the base of the community, and support the whole food chain. Like the rainforest, the reef is a living shelter for many creatures - more than 3,000 species of animals live on and around the Great Barrier Reef.
Coral reefs provide food and shelter for creatures from large fish to tiny microscopic organisms.
Coral reefs also protect the coast from erosion during ty phoons, and are ideal for underwater fun - such as scuba- diving, photography and for studying marine life.
More than 100 years ago, there were many reefs in Hong Kong's waters.
However, human influences such as pollution, reclamation, sand dredging, coral mining and harmful fishing methods have destroyed many of Hong Kong's corals.
Hoi Ha Wan in Sai Kung is one of the few remaining places where reefs still exist. WWF HK plans to build a marine life study centre there. People will be able to study the marine environment without disturbing the amazing underwater life.
WWF HK is a local charity environmental organisation established in 1981 which aims to build a future in which people can live in harmony with nature. For information, call 2526-1011 or e-mail to http://www.wwf.org.hk