Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Coral Reef

Photo credit: Wang Luan Keng


Coral reefs are large calcium carbonate structures built by living organisms in the sea, among which the main 'constructors' are the hard corals. Coral reefs are generally found in shallow tropical waters, where warm ocean currents allow reef-building corals to grow and reproduce. Coral reefs are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Covering less than 0.1% of Earth's surface, the reefs' complex structure supports more than 25% of the world's known marine organisms.

There are two main types of coral reefs found in Singapore, namely patch reefs and fringing reefs. Patch reefs are small, isolated reefs that arise from submerged shallow land platforms. This can be seen in the case of Cyrene Reef. Fringing reefs, also the most comon globally, grow in a narrow band lining the shore. In Singapore, they can be found around the southern islands. Fringing reefs used to be found on the main island of Singapore but coastal reclamation have buried most of them except a short stretch along Labrador.

Coral reefs in Singapore have experienced an approximate 60% loss due to land reclamation. The remaining reefs, on the other hand, are also subjected to the threat of sedimentation since the mid-1960s, which retards growth and smother many corals. As a result, Singapore has also lost corals below 6 m deep on the reef slope together with 34% loss of coral cover on the upper slope. This leaves most of the coral reefs now limited only within the upper reef slope. The total reef area in the country is estimated to be around 10 km2. This loss in habitat would also translate to a decrease in the diversity of organisms that associate with the coral reefs, including sea shells, sea cucumbers, sea stars.

Though much damage has been sustained by reefs, an assessment of hard corals recorded as many as 250 species, which is a third of the world's known hard coral species.


Coral Reef

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