Coral reefs are some of the most beautiful places on Earth and according to the recent IMAX movie The Last Reef they may be gone within our lifetime. It starts by talking about the amazing variety of species that live in coral reefs, from coral to fish to sea slugs. Sea slugs, or nudibranchia, look a lot like land slugs, but come in a tremendous variety of beautiful coloring. The Last Reef also talked about how many of these animals live in symbiosis and depend on each other for survival. An example of this is the relationship between coral anemones and clown fish. Anemones are poisonous to most fish and so the clown fish live within them to stay safe. The clown fish defend the anemone and keep it clean. The biodiversity and relationships between all the different living organisms is phenomenal.
The second half of the film talks more about what is threatening coral reefs. One of their major points is about the amount of CO2 in the ocean and how as it increases so does the acidity of the oceans. People with fishtanks have to make sure the pH remains within certain levels and the ocean is no different. There is also the rise in ocean water temperature which often results in coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is caused when the symbiotic relationship between coral and algae is disrupted, often by water temperatures above what the coral is used to.
According to the movie, coral reefs are disappearing five times faster than rainforests. The effects are being felt on shores that have been protected from the ocean by reefs, and by the entire ocean population. I would like to say that the end of the movie felt alarmist, but unfortunately they are right and I hope that more will be done to save coral reefs.
I watched the movie at the Museum of Science, Boston.