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How Do Coral Reefs Form?



How Do Coral Reefs Form?
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.2

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    free-swimming, atoll, helping, fabulous, diverse, various, successful, volcanic, environment, offshore, shoreline, halo, natural, works, rebuild, produce


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How Do Coral Reefs Form?
By Sharon Fabian
  

1     Coral reefs - they have the shapes and colors of beautiful works of art. Every year, tourists arrive by the thousands like schools of tropical fish to take a once-in-a-lifetime look at these fabulous sculptures made by nature. In fact, so many tourists have visited that scientists fear the coral reefs are being destroyed. Conservationists in some parks where coral reefs are located have even asked if it is possible to repair or rebuild a reef.
 
2     If you were interested in one of these projects, you might want to know how coral reefs were formed in the first place. When you begin your research, one of the first things you will learn is that a coral reef takes thousands and thousands of years to form. So, a reef cannot be rebuilt. Some attempts to repair a reef using pieces broken off from other reefs during a storm have been a little more successful. Still you will see that, for anyone interested in having beautiful coral reefs for future generations to enjoy, the important thing is to preserve the ones that are on earth now.
 
3     Learning how coral reefs are formed can help us to appreciate and preserve them. It can help to make us aware of how important the reefs are, not only because they are beautiful but also because they are homes to some of the most diverse populations of sea creatures anywhere.
 
4     Coral reefs form around the edges of land masses - islands or continents - mostly in tropical or subtropical locations. They grow where the water is warm, salty, clear, and not too deep.
 
5     A reef begins when coral polyps in the free-swimming stage settle on a rocky surface below the water. The polyps create tiny calcium shells that attach to the rocks. Every so often, the polyps create more shells, stacking them on top of the previous ones. The living polyps multiply and continue to build their reef of tiny calcium shells until they reach the surface of the water. The polyps cannot live above water, so next they began to expand the reef horizontally, making it longer instead of taller. Coral reefs grow slowly - from a few millimeters to a few centimeters in a year. This is why it takes a very long time to form a reef.

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