4 New Corals Were Recorded in Indian Waters - UPSC Current Affairs

4 New Corals were recorded in Indian Waters - UPSC Current Affairs

Here is our today’s edition of the Current Affairs Dialog box, wherein we will discuss 4 New Corals recorded in Indian Waters. Navigate through the article to understand the topic in detail and enhance your UPSC CSE Preparation Online.

The topic’s relevance to the UPSC CSE syllabus is listed below:

For Prelims: Environment and Ecology 

For Mains: GS III; Environment 

Context

Four new coral species of azooxanthellate corals have been recorded by scientists from the waters of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India.

About Corals Polyps

  • Coral Polyps are invertebrate animals, belonging to Cnidaria, also called coelenterate, a large group of colorful and fascinating animals.
  • Most reef-building coral polyps contain photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae.
  • The corals and algae have a mutualistic relationship, algae live in coral tissues. The coral provides the algae with a protected environment and compounds they need for photosynthesis. In return, the algae produce oxygen and help the coral to remove wastes.
  • The zooxanthellae supply the coral with glucose, glycerol, and amino acids, which are the products of photosynthesis. The coral uses these products to make proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and produce calcium carbonate. The relationship between the algae and coral polyp facilitates the tight recycling of nutrients in nutrient-poor tropical waters.
  • The most productive ecosystem of corals shares less than 1% of the earth’s surface but they provide a home to nearly 25% of marine life.

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Azooxanthellate Corals

  • Corals that do not contain zooxanthellae (a certain type of algae restricted to shallow waters) are known as azooxanthellate corals.
  • They are deep-sea representatives reporting from shallow coastal waters between 200 m to 1000 m.
  • Hence, it derives nourishment from capturing different forms of plankton instead of Sun. 
  • Flabellidae is a family of marine corals from which all four groups (Truncatoflabellum crassum, Truncatoflabellum incrustation, Truncatoflabellum aculeatum, and Truncate Flabellum irregulare) of corals belong.
  • The azooxanthellate corals are a group of hard corals and the four new records are not only solitary but have a highly compressed skeletal structure.
  • They are non-reef-building corals.

Coral Reefs

  • Corals secrete calcium carbonate that forms underwater structures called coral reefs. Coral reefs are also known as the rainforests of the sea. 
  • The three main types of coral reefs are fringing, barrier, and atoll.
  • The most common type of reef is the fringing reef. This type of reef grows seaward directly from the shore. They form borders along the shoreline and surrounding islands. Such reefs are found in Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Caribbean region. 
  • Atolls are usually circular or oval in shape, with an open lagoon in the center. Such coral reefs are usually formed on mid-oceanic ridges. Lakshadweep Islands of India are examples of Atoll Reefs.
  • Barrier reefs are similar to fringing reefs in that they also border a shoreline; however, instead of growing directly out from the shore, they are separated from land by an expanse of water. This creates a lagoon of open, often deep water between the reef and the shore. For example, the Great Barrier Reef along the coast of Australia.
  • India has about 570 species of hard corals out of which almost 90% of them are found in the waters surrounding Andaman and Nicobar Islands. 
  • It provides food, protection of shorelines, jobs based on tourism, and even medicines, thus the estimated value of coral reefs is around 30 to 172 billion U.S. dollars per year.

Geographical Conditions for Corals Growth

  • Corals can grow in both shallow & deep water across the ocean. Whereas reef-building corals are only found in shallow tropical and subtropical waters, as the algae in their tissues need light for photosynthesis.
  • They prefer water temperatures between 70-85°F (22-29°C).
  • The deep-sea corals (both stony corals and soft corals) thrive in cold, dark water at depths of up to 20,000 feet (6,000 m) as the algae in their tissues do not require sunlight or warm water to survive. 
  • Deep-sea corals grow very slowly. 

Great Barrier Reef

  • It is a site of remarkable variety and beauty of the world’s most extensive, one of the richest and most spectacular natural ecosystems in the Coral Reef ecosystem.
  • It is located in the Coral Sea (North-East Coast), off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
  • It can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms.
  • It was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981, covering an area of 348,000 square kilometers.
  • It is home to over 9,000 known species including endemic species and threatened species as listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Coral Bleaching

  • Coral bleaching happens when an unwanted situation causes coral polyps to lose the microscopic algae called zooxanthellae that produce the food corals need. 
  • The absence of zooxanthellae makes the living tissue almost transparent, hence the name coral bleaching. 
  • The current situation of coral bleaching is alarming as in some places, reefs have been entirely destroyed, whereas, in many places, they are merely a pale shadow of what they once were.

Causes of Coral Bleaching

Following are the some of the causes of Coral bleaching:

  • Overfishing and destructive fishing
  • Ocean acidification
  • Water pollution
  • Global warming
  • Changing ocean chemistry
  • Invasive species 

Initiatives to Protect Coral Reef

Global Initiatives

Internationally many initiatives and programs have been taken to create awareness, protection, conservation, and restoration of corals worldwide –

  • International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) 1994, is an informal global partnership for the preservation of the world’s coral reefs and associated ecosystems. It was founded by eight governments: Australia, France, Japan, Jamaica, the Philippines, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 1970, is an American scientific agency focusing on oceans and the atmosphere’s usage and protection, falling within the United States Department of Commerce.
  • Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) provides scientific information on the status and trends of coral reef ecosystems along with their conservation and management within the network of the International Coral Reef Initiative.
  • Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA), 1990, is one of the largest global non-government NGOs focused exclusively on coral reef conservation.
  • The Global Coral Reef R&D Accelerator Platform to preserve and restore global corals with the help of science and technologies. It was founded by 11 nations.

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Indian Initiatives

  • In India, the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has included the ecologically sensitive areas (Coastal Regulation Zone, CRZ-I), also under the Coastal Zone Studies (CZS) and Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
  • Bio rock or mineral accretion technology has been started using by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), with assistance from Gujarat’s Forest department, to restore coral reefs. It is a method of applying low voltage electrical currents through seawater, causing dissolved minerals to crystallize on structures, growing into a white limestone (CaCO3) just like coral reefs.
  • The National Coastal Mission Programme has also been initiated to protect and sustain coral reefs in the country.
  • The National Committee on Wetlands, Mangroves, and Coral Reefs have also been initiated but unlike other initiatives, this one has less strict policies.

Way Forward

  • To protect coral reefs, it’s important to ensure that the water is clean, especially that surrounds coral reefs.
  • A healthy fish community is also important to maintain, as the fish eat the predators such as the crown of thorns, starfish, and seaweeds that smother corals.
  • Marine protected areas (MPAs) are an important tool for keeping reefs healthy. India has declared regions around the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait.
  • Artificial reefs are one of the many tools used by marine conservationists to restore coral reefs around the globe. They are made from a variety of natural or synthetic materials used generally to provide a stable growing area for corals and a habitat for fishes and all the other organisms that would be found on a natural reef. 
  • It is the need for time to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causing an increase in temperature, ocean acidification, and ultimately coral bleaching. 

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