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Introduction to the coral ecosystem

This lesson provides an introduction to the coral ecosystem for GCSE (ages 14-16) students. Older students may also find this lesson useful if they are unable to make the later live lesson. The live lesson will cover the distribution, characteristics and functioning of tropical coral reefs. This is the first of three lessons on the coral ecosystem for more advanced students.

Broadcast on Tue 17 Nov 2020
  • 45 mins
  • Ages 14-16
Curriculum links

The distribution, characteristics and functioning of coral reef ecosystems:

  • The location and distribution of warm water coral reef ecosystems
  • The distinctive features of coral reefs and the environmental conditions associated with reef development to include water temperature, acidity, salinity and algal blooms
  • The processes and relationships that link biotic and abiotic aspects of the ecosystem to include nutrient cycling and the interdependence of climate, soil, water, plants, animals and humans

If this will be the first time that you have taken part in an Encounter Edu live lesson, have a look at the resources in the guidance hub, where you will find technical and educational support.

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 GCSE.

The lesson assumes no prior knowledge of corals, but students may find it useful to cover some basics of coral reef formation using Lesson 2 What is the structure of the coral reef? from the Coral Oceans Geography | Ages 14-16 unit.

Much of the content covered in the lesson is included in Lesson 3 What are the factors of the coral reef ecosystem?

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

Session steps

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. Meet Michelle (5 mins)

The live lesson will be delivered by Dr Michelle Achlatis, who has been studying reef systems across the world including the Great Barrier Reef and Curacao.

3. Where are coral reefs found? (5 mins)

Like other ecosystems, tropical coral reefs have a specific location and distribution. Referencing the marine habitat off the shore, we will look at the geographical range of coral reefs.

4. Why are coral reefs found in only some places? (10 mins)

Michelle will then show students some of the habitat-forming animals that create the reef structure, coral polyps, and sponges, and explain why they are only found in some areas of the world. This will explain the environmental conditions associated with reef development.

5. Abiotic and biotic processes (10 mins)

Then we will cover the processes and relationships found on the coral reefs, including nutrient cycling and the interdependence of climate, water, plants, animals, and humans.

6. Q&A (10 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

Michelle Achlatis Coral Live

Dr Michelle Achlatis

Research Scientist, California Academy of Sciences

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