Dead coral is coral that has died as a result of various stressors, such as disease, pollution, or changes in water temperature and chemistry. Dead coral can have significant impacts on the health and functioning of coral reefs.
When coral dies, it can no longer provide habitat for other marine life and can no longer contribute to the process of coral calcification, in which coral reefs are built up over time as coral skeletons accumulate. The loss of coral can lead to a decline in the overall biodiversity of the reef and can reduce the ability of the reef to provide important ecosystem services, such as coastal protection and habitat for fish.
Dead coral can also create hazards for divers and snorkelers, as it can be fragile and break easily. In addition, dead coral can release nutrients into the water, which can contribute to the growth of algae and other organisms that can compete with or smother living coral.
Efforts to protect and restore coral reefs typically focus on preventing coral death and promoting the recovery of damaged reefs. This can involve reducing the impacts of stressors such as pollution and overfishing, and using techniques such as coral propagation and transplantation to help restore damaged reefs.