Tag: Coral reefs

Ditching Microbeads: The Search For Sustainable Skincare

Is smoother skin worth more than having potable water or edible fish?

For years, research has shown that beauty products made with tiny microbeads, gritty cleansers that scrub off dead skin cells, have been damaging water supplies, marine life and the ecological balance of the planet.

Beat the Microbead, an international campaign to ban the plastic beads, reports that marine species are unable to distinguish between food and microbeads.

According to the campaign, “over 663 different species were negatively impacted by marine debris with approximately 11% of reported cases specifically related to the ingestion of microplastics“.

To make things worse, microbeads can act like tiny sponges, absorbing several other dangerous chemicals, including pesticides and flame retardants. As they ingest microbeads, marine animals also consume these other poisons.




The obvious solution to the microbead problem is to cut it off at the source.

But while major cosmetic companies like Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble have pledged to phase out the use of microbeads in favor of natural alternatives, they also say that the shift could take several years.

And as more research is done, it appears that microbead replacements may come with dangers of their own.

Some of the natural replacements for microbeads also have negative consequences.

Greg Boyer, chair of the chemistry department at SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry, says a possible negative consequence is with degrading sugars that biochemically “burn” the sugar for energy.

A variety of biodegradable ingredients are available to developers.

Victoria Fantauzzi, co-founder of Chicago-based La Bella Figura Beauty, says that her company recently released a facial cleanser that uses enzymes found in papaya and pineapple, ingredients known to effectively exfoliate skin cells.

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How Do Stony Corals Grow? What Forms Do They Take?


Over the course of many years, stony coral polyps can create massive reef structures. Reefs form when polyps secrete skeletons of calcium carbonate (CaCO3).

Most stony corals have very small polyps, averaging 1 to 3 millimeters in diameter, but entire colonies can grow very large and weigh several tons.

As they grow, these reefs provide structural habitats for hundreds to thousands of different vertebrate and invertebrate species.

The skeletons of stony corals are secreted by the lower portion of the polyp. This process produces a cup, or calyx, in which the polyp sits.

The walls surrounding the cup are called the theca, and the floor is called the basal plate. Periodically, a polyp will lift off its base and secrete a new basal plate above the old one, creating a small chamber in the skeleton.

While the colony is alive, CaCO3 is deposited, adding partitions and elevating the coral.




When polyps are physically stressed, they contract into their calyx so that virtually no part is exposed above their skeleton.

This protects the polyp from predators and the elements (Barnes, R.D., 1987; Sumich, 1996). At other times, polyps extend out of the calyx. Most polyps extend the farthest when they feed.

Reef-building corals exhibit a wide range of shapes. For instance, branching corals have primary and secondary branches. Digitate corals look like fingers or clumps of cigars and have no secondary branches.

Table corals form table-like structures and often have fused branches. Elkhorn coral has large, flattened branches. Foliase corals have broad plate-like portions rising in whorl-like patterns.

Encrusting corals grow as a thin layer against a substrate. Massive corals are ball-shaped or boulder-like and may be small as an egg or as large as a house. Mushroom corals resemble the attached or unattached tops of mushrooms.

Coral reefs begin to form when free-swimming coral larvae attach to submerged rocks or other hard surfaces along the edges of islands or continents.

As the corals grow and expand, reefs take on one of three major characteristic structures —fringing, barrier or atoll.

Fringing reefs, which are the most common, project seaward directly from the shore, forming borders along the shoreline and surrounding islands.

Barrier reefs also border shorelines, but at a greater distance. They are separated from their adjacent land mass by a lagoon of open, often deep water.

If a fringing reef forms around a volcanic island that subsides completely below sea level while the coral continues to grow upward, an atoll forms.

Atolls are usually circular or oval, with a central lagoon. Parts of the reef platform may emerge as one or more islands, and gaps in the reef provide access to the central lagoon.

In addition to being some of the most beautiful and biologically diverse habitats in the ocean, barrier reefs and atolls also are some of the oldest.

With growth rates of 0.3 to 2 centimeters per year for massive corals, and up to 10 centimeters per year for branching corals, it can take up to 10,000 years for a coral reef to form from a group of larvae (Barnes, 1987).

Depending on their size, barrier reefs and atolls can take from 100,000 to 30,000,000 years to fully form.

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The Coral Reefs Are Showing Signs Of Global Warming Stress But We Can Still Do Something About It

With coral reefs all over the world suffering ongoing bleaching and death at the hands of warming ocean waters from remote coral atolls in the Indian Ocean to Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, the future of these beloved marine ecosystems appears increasingly grim.

But while experts almost universally agree that global warming will continue to shape the future of the world’s corals, some scientists insist that there’s still hope for them.

In a paper out last Wednesday in the Journal Nature, more than a dozen experts from around the world say that coral reefs are likely to undergo major changes as a result of continued global warming and other human activities, like fishing.

But while future coral ecosystems might look a lot different than they do today, from the species they contain to the places they live, they aren’t necessarily doomed. In fact, accepting this transition and helping them through it might be the best and even only way to save them.

Scientist also recommends an updated approach to the research of coral reefs one that focuses increasingly on the cumulative impact of multiple disturbances working together (for instance, warming waters combined with pollution and over-fishing) instead of focusing on one single factor at a time.

With a commitment to active management and an open mind about what the future of coral reefs might look like, scientists say we can now allow ourselves a little more optimism.

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