Coral Reef Ecosystems

SciGuides are a collection of thematically aligned lesson plans, simulations, and web-based resources for teachers to use with their students centered on standards-aligned science concepts.

Why study coral reef ecosystems? Having survived millions of years, coral reefs are among the oldest and most diverse ecosystems on earth. Learning about coral ecosystems encompasses many of the 9-12 grade science curriculum standards. Life cycles of organisms, biological structure and function of organisms, and the behaviors and adaptations of organisms to their environment are all topics easily studied through a focus on coral reefs. All populations in this ecosystem are interdependent and part of a global food web.

Healthy coral reef ecosystems are important to the humans, plants, fish, and other organisms that depend on them. However, the increasing impact of climate changes and human activities is endangering the very survival of these ecosystems. Pollution, habitat loss, invasive species, and diseases are all threats to the survival of coral ecosystems around the globe. Learning about them- “their fragility and value”- will help students understand what is needed to protect them.

This SciGuide highlights outstanding NOAA resources, such as online tutorials and complete, hands-on, inquiry based lesson plans from the National Ocean Services. These resources address three areas. First, students can study the biology of the coral organism, learning about types of coral and where they are found. Next, resources focus on the populations, habitat, and dynamics of coral ecosystems. Finally, teachers and students, through online data sources and activities, learn about conservation of our coral ecosystems. Natural threats, human disturbances, and the benefits of coral protection focus students on the real world importance of science learning.


High School


Type SciGuideStock # SG-16

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