The International Conference on Status and Protection of Coral Reefs (STAPCOR – 2018) with the theme “Reef for Life” was inaugurated by the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan on 22nd October at Bangaram coral Island of Union Territory of Lakshadweep.
The effect of climate change and global warming along with El-Nino on the corals has to lead to heavy bleaching internationally during the year 1998. This led to the foundation of STAPCOR with a decision to have an international conference in every 10 years to review the status and progress of coral reefs all over the world.
The goals of the 3rd IYOR – 2018 are to:
- Strengthen awareness about the ecological, economic, social and cultural value of coral reefs and associated ecosystems.
- Improve understanding of the critical threats to reefs and generate both practical and innovative solutions to reduce these threats.
- Generate urgent action to develop and implement effective management strategies for conservation and sustainable use of these ecosystems.
The first IYOR was designated in 1997 in response to the increasing threats on coral reefs and associated ecosystems. The hope was to increase awareness of the value of and threats to coral reefs and to promote conservation, research, and management efforts on a global scale.
Corals are invertebrates belonging to a large group of colorful and fascinating animals called Cnidarians. Other animals in this group include jellyfish and sea anemones. Each individual coral animal is called a polyp, and most live in groups of hundreds to thousands of genetically identical polyps that form a ‘colony’. The colony is created by a process called budding, where the original polyp literally grows copies of itself.
Corals are generally classified as either “hard” or “soft”. There are around 800 known species of hard coral, also known as ‘reef-building’ or scleractinian corals. Soft corals, or octocorals, which include seas fans, sea feathers, and sea whips, don’t have the rock-like calcareous skeleton, instead, they grow wood-like cores for support and fleshy rinds for protection.
Soft corals also live in colonies, that often resemble brightly colored plants or trees, and are easy to tell apart from hard corals as their polyps have tentacles that occur in multiples of 8, and have a distinctive feathery appearance. Soft corals are found in oceans from the equator to the north and south poles, generally in caves or on ledges. Here, they hang down in order to capture food floating by in the currents.
Coral reefs have evolved on earth over the past 200 to 300 million years, and have developed a unique and highly evolved form of symbiosis. Coral polyps have developed this relationship with tiny single-celled algae known as zooxanthellae. Inside the tissues of each coral, polyp lives these zooxanthellae, sharing space and nutrients.
This symbiosis between plant and animal also contributes to the brilliant colors of coral that can be seen while diving on a reef. It is the importance of light that drives corals to compete for space on the sea floor, and so constantly pushes the limits of their physiological tolerances in a competitive environment among so many different species. However, it also makes corals highly susceptible to environmental stress.