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Why Lakshadweep is Known as a Coral Island

The Lakshadweep islands, located off the coast of Kerala in the Arabian Sea, are a beautiful archipelago known for their spectacular coral reefs and serene lagoons. But how exactly are these coral islands formed?

Keep reading to uncover the remarkable ecology behind these Indian Ocean gems.

Why is Lakshadweep Known as a Coral Island?

Lakshadweep is an archipelago of 36 islands, 12 atolls, 3 reefs, and 5 submerged banks. The islands are almost entirely composed of coral and sand. The term "atoll" refers to a ring-shaped coral reef that encloses a lagoon.

As the coral grows upwards while tiny marine creatures called polyps die, their calcium carbonate skeletons accumulate to form the foundations of the islands. This is how most coral islands like the Lakshadweep are formed.

Why Lakshadweep is Known as a Coral Island

How are Coral Reefs Formed?

Coral reefs begin forming when coral polyps, tiny marine invertebrates, secrete a hard calcareous skeleton near the sea surface. When polyps die, they leave behind their skeletons. As generations of coral polyps grow, their skeletons accumulate into a reef structure.

With time, the coral reef grows upwards and outwards. Lakshadweep's islands sit on top of such coral reef structures.

Why is Coral Important for These Islands?

Coral is crucial for the ecology of Lakshadweep islands, as coral reefs form the base of the islands and lagoons, provide habitat for thousands of marine species, prevent erosion from waves and storms, and attract tourism. The livelihoods of indigenous islanders depend directly on thriving coral ecosystems through fishing and tourism.

How Many Coral Islands Makeup Lakshadweep?

The Lakshadweep archipelago is made up of 12 coral atolls, 3 coral reefs, and 5 submerged banks - all formed by the growth of coral polyps over millennia. These islands are located 200-400 km off the coast of Kerala, in a stunning turquoise lagoon in the Arabian Sea. Some main islands are Kavaratti, Agatti, Bangaram, Tinnakara, and Parali.

What Marine Life is Found Around Lakshadweep?

Lakshadweep's coral reefs and lagoons serve as a habitat for over 1000 species of spectacular tropical fish like groupers, snappers, angelfish, barracuda, and sharks. Coral also shelters turtles, rays, and small reef inhabitants like prawns, crabs, and mollusks. The islands draw migratory seabirds and whales too. Lakshadweep's biodiverse marine life relies entirely on thriving coral reef ecosystems.

How are Lakshadweep's Coral Islands Formed?

Lakshadweep's islands sit on top of underwater banks made of coral grown over thousands of years. The coral polyps need sunlight to survive, so they grow vertically up towards the ocean surface. Their calcium carbonate skeletons pile up to form a shallow foundation. Sand accumulates along with dead corals scraped from the surrounding reefs. Over many years these foundations emerge from the sea as tiny islands that keep growing.

How Does Coral Grow?

Corals start growing as larvae settle on firm seabed and develop into polyps. These tiny polyps multiply by splitting, forming clustered coral colonies. Polyps have tentacles to catch plankton. At night they extend these tentacles.

By day the tentacles retract, and polyps use sunlight to nourish themselves through photosynthesis by their algae symbionts - this is crucial for the coral to grow before it forms a hard skeleton.

What Threats Do Lakshadweep's Corals Face?

Rising ocean temperatures leading to coral bleaching, ocean acidification eroding coral skeletons, destructive fishing practices like bottom trawling, pollution from plastic and waste dumping, increased sediment from erosion, and unregulated tourism are major threats. Protecting Lakshadweep's coral health is vital - the islanders' livelihoods depend directly on fishing, coconuts, and tourism fuelled by these reefs.

How Can We Help Preserve Lakshadweep's Coral?

We can reduce carbon emissions and ocean acidification, establish marine reserves where fishing and activities are regulated, introduce better waste management, and educate tourists on responsible reef practices.

Locals can be empowered to sustainably manage tourism and fishing. Tackling climate change is also central to giving coral resilience against rising ocean temperatures and acidity.


Conclusion

To summarize, the fascinating coral islands of Lakshadweep thrive due to prolific coral growth over millennia to form the spectacular tropical reefs these islands sit on. Preserving these living coral ecosystems is absolutely vital for the islands' future, and their marine life as well as sustaining local populations through fishing and tourism.

Coral protection must get urgent attention, as this ecosystem provides the very foundation that which Lakshadweep is built on.

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