Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pacific Year of the Coral Reef

1997, as part of a global campaign has been designated Pacific Year of the Coral Reef. Coral reefs with their immense diversity and myriad of colours are among the most productive and important ecosystems in the world .Coral reefs are home to a huge array of fish, crustaceans, molluscs and worms.Coral reefs are important as a resource to island nations. The increasing pressure on the reef ecosystems however, has made it necessary to implement an awareness campaign to highlight the importance and fragility of coral reefs.
There are over 148 species of hard coral (Sceractinians) and soft coral (Alcyonarians) within the waters of the Fiji Islands. Several species have depicted on the stamps which are issued for commemorating the Pacific Year of the Coral Reef.

63 cents - Pocillopora verrucosa (Ellis and Solander, 1786)
 This species has a wide geographic distribution, being found from the Red Sea and Eastern Africa throughout the Pacific.This hard coral is common in the shallow waters of the lagoon and reflect, but occurs as thickly branched colonies in the wave affected areas of the reef slope.Colonies are characterised by branches with small protuberances (verrucae) on them. The branches are thicker and more compact where there is wave action, with a more open appearance in protected areas such as lagoons.

87 cents - Favia rotumana (Gardiner, 1899)
It was hard coral found on the upper reef slopes and in the pools on the flat reef. Its growth form is messy and usually hemispherical or rounded. The corallites are irregular in shape, with the polyps often containing more than one centre or mouth. Its robust growth form makes it resistant to wave action. Tolerance of the environmental variation (turbidity, temperature and salinity fluctuations) in the shallow reef flat zone allow colonisation of a variety of reef habitats. Its range extends from the South China Sea throughout the Eastern Pacific to the Samoas.

$1 - Sinularia sp.
  This is soft coral. They can be distinguished from hard corals from their large fleshy colonies, which are soft or leathery in nature without a rock-like skeleton.The living polyp has eight tentacles (Octocorals), for feeding, whereas the hard corals have six or multiples of six (Hexacorals). They are common on the back reef margin of the barrier and inshore on fringing reefs where there is a silt or turbid environment. They are the dominant organism on some reefs, completely covering large areas to the exclusion of all else.

$3 - Dendronephthya sp.
This is the most colourful of soft corals appearing as iridescent reds, pinks and yellows. Their bright colour is due, in part, to the lack of the small, unicellular algae which live in the tissues of most hard and soft corals. As a consequence, the preferred habitat is deeper water, in shaded areas under overhangs and the entrance to caves. They occur on offshore reefs where there is clear water and good circulation. The colonies from branching tree-life colonies where the polyps are borne on the end of the branches. They have prominent skeletal spicules or sclerites which provide defence and give the colony a spiky appearance.

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