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Human activity and the coral ecosystem

This lesson examines the relationship between humans and the coral reef using the island of Curacao in the southern Caribbean as a case study. This lesson is aimed at GCSE (ages 14-16) and A-Level (ages 16-18) students. The live lesson will cover the value of coral reef ecosystems to humans and the planet, as well as the threats that human activity poses to the reef. This is the second of three lessons on the coral ecosystem for more advanced students.

Broadcast on Mon 15 Nov 2021
  • 45 mins
  • Ages 14-16
Learning Outcomes

Human activity and its impact on coral reef ecosystems

  • The value of coral reef ecosystems to humans and the planet

  • Human induced threats and their impacts to the coral reef ecosystem to include: climate change, major drainage basin schemes, onshore developments, desalinisation, pollution, tourism, fishing


This live lesson is suited to all students studying ecosystems in science or geography and will be of particular relevance to those studying coral ecosystems at exam level.

The lesson assumes no prior knowledge of corals, but students may find it useful to have covered some aspects of the learning. Lesson 4 and Lesson 5 of the Coral Oceans Geography | Ages 14-16 unit or Lesson 2 and Lesson 3 from the Coral Oceans Science | Ages 14-16 unit can help with preparation and revision.

If you have never joined a live lesson before, see the guidance hub, where you will find technical and educational support.

Questions generated by your class can be submitted via the Encounter Live tab in your Encounter Edu profile.

Session outline

1. Introduction (5 mins)

The live lesson will open with a welcome to Coral Live and the base for the live event, the CARMABI research station in the southern Caribbean. The host will give any shout outs to participating schools and students.

2. Ecosystem goods and services (5 mins)

We start with explaining the concept of ecosystem goods and services, which is one way of understanding how nature benefits humans.

3. The benefits of coral reefs (10 mins)

Coral reefs benefit the planet and people hugely. They are worth an estimated $9.8 trillion per year, support 25 per cent of all marine species and provide livelihoods to hundreds of millions around the world. Students will learn about the importance of coral reefs in general and Curacao as a case study.

4. Human threats to the reefs (10 mins)

We will then discuss human threats to the reef, describing both local threats such as water quality, coastal development, and tourism, as well as wider threats such as ocean warming and tropical storms.

5. Q&A (15 mins)

The last section allows for classes and students to ask further questions to clarify any of the points covered or to deepen knowledge of other areas of the coral ecosystem.


Coral Live 2018 Jamie Buchanan Dunlop

Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop

Executive Director, Encounter Edu

Speaker Mark Vermeij

Dr Mark J.A. Vermeij

Scientific Director, CARMABI

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