The Rare Black Coral Reef

Why the Rarest of Coral Reefs is in Danger?

Black corals or thorn corals, are a type of soft deep-water corals. These corals can be recognized by their jet-black or dark brown color only the red coral is more prized for the makers of jewelry. Many black corals provide housing, shelter, food, and protection for the biodiversity of fish and other undersea animals. Though they have historically been used by Pacific Islanders for medical treatment and in rituals, the most common modern use is for making jewelry. Black corals have been declining in numbers and are expected to continue declining due tof poaching, ocean acidification and climate change.

Black coral are classified as Antipatharia which is derived from the Greek word antipathes which means ("against disease")Coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases. Since corals are stationary animals, many have evolved chemical defenses to protect themselves from predators. Though it is illegal to move black corals across international borders without authorization, as they are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), it is still possible to buy them.

Most detrimental to the largest black coral reefs located in the waters off the coast of the Honduras is disease caused by the changing chemical composition of the oceans due to climate change. Coral disease outbreaks are a serious threat to coral reefs like Los Cayos Cochinos, causing death to hard and soft corals over extensive areas and the most dangerous disease is one called Black Band Disease or BBD.

.The disease is more prevalent in areas with increased sedimentation. A process where sludge from higher elevations covers the sea bottom because of pollutants being dumped into oceans or erosion and storms. Coral reefs with the highest incidence of BBD was also found to have higher sediment flux or sedimentation than the other sites. For people reliant on the oceans for sustenance climate change is not a distant threat for a future generation to face but an immediate emergency, with tropical storms and rising seas taking their toll on human lives, livelihoods and infrastructure, This month members of the Black Coral educational programming team will be headed to the black coral reefs off the coast of the Honduras to begin development of and educational tourism program for students,Educators, and businesses in the Greater Boston area and eventually statewide. Our goal is to economically educate people first hand on climate science and empower them to help their own communities as well as enter fields that promote positive change in the ecosystem.