Underwater oasis: The role of coral reefs for marine life

Coral reefs are mesmerizing worlds of colour and life. These underwater wonderlands support millions of marine species. Imagine this. It is the beginning of your day as a coral restorer in a protected nature reserve. 

Coral reefs harbour a variety of life

Coral reefs harbour a variety of life

You carry the tools of your trade. In addition to the typical gear required of divers, you might also have a bread knife, cake piping bag, toothbrush, shopping basket, slates and pencils, and rope. Toothbrushes and knife to delicately scrub away debris from coral nursery ropes, piping bags to hold a special mix of cement for attaching corals to the reef substrate, and rope to fix fraying ropes in the nursery.

A trusted camera is also on hand for the moments when you see underwater life. It could be an octopus camouflaged among planted corals, bat fish picking at loose morsels from the nursery, or fish and hermit crabs hiding within corals.

A trusted camera is useful for underwater life sightings

A trusted camera is useful for underwater life sightings

For Nature Seychelles’ Reef Rescuers, these sightings are a vital part of the coral reef restoration project. They provide a wealth of knowledge about the reef's health and associated marine life.

Coral reefs are often called the rainforests of the ocean, and for good reason. These underwater ecosystems support a vast array of marine animals, making them a crucial part of our planet's biodiversity. They do so in these ways.

Corals provide shelter, protection, and a breeding ground for a wide variety of fish, invertebrates, and other organisms. Coral reefs in Seychelles are home to hundreds of fish species, including parrotfishes, rabbitfishes, wrasses, angelfishes, damselfishes, butterflyfishes, surgeonfishes, eels, sharks, and rays. Sea slugs, octopus, squid, nudibranchs, shrimps, feather stars, sea stars, and sea cucumbers can also be found within the reefs.

At the heart of coral reefs are the corals themselves. Reefs are the result of a fascinating partnership. Coral colonies are made up of tiny animals called polyps that secrete the skeleton that makes up the reef. However, polyps depend on the live-in zooxanthellae algae for their food and their characteristic colour. When corals are exposed to stressful conditions such as high temperatures, the polyps expel their algae partner and lose their colour, a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. Prolonged environmental stress can kill corals and threaten reef-associated marine life.

Coral bleaching can kill corals and threaten reef associated marine life such as turtles

Coral bleaching can kill corals and threaten reef-associated marine life such as turtles


Many marine animals feed on corals themselves, while others graze on algae, which grows on the corals. These include herbivorous fish. These herbivores, in turn, are prey for larger fish like sharks creating a complex and interconnected food web. Other species feed on microscopic plants, animals, and organic matter floating in the water.

The iconic Hawksbill turtle also relies on coral reefs and is vital to coral reef health. Hawksbill turtles eat sponges and help control their populations, preventing overgrowth that could otherwise stifle corals.


The intricate network of crevices allows smaller fish, crustaceans, and other organisms to seek refuge from larger predators.

The Seychelles anemone fish (or clownfish) has a symbiotic relationship with the sea anemone. The fish lives and is protected in the anemone's tentacles, and in return, it defends the anemone from its predators and parasites.

Our lives are connected to coral reefs. We eat fish and seafood and use reef products such as pharmaceuticals and nutritional supplements. Coral reef biodiversity is a tourist attraction. It is crucial that we recognize the significance of coral reefs and take collective action to conserve and protect these extraordinary ecosystems.

Annou protez koray!

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Since 1998.

Seychelles Nature, Green HealthClimate Change, Biodiversity Conservation & Sustainability Organisation

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Centre for Environment & Education

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Email: nature@seychelles.net