S.C. Sea Grant Consortium

Coastal Heritage Curriculum Connection

Explore Curriculum Connection guides, which are written to accompany each issue of Coastal Heritage, a quarterly publication of the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium.

Coastal Heritage, Winter 2009 issue: Cold-Water Corals: Ancient Life in the Deep, Dark Sea

Focus Questions

  • What are deep sea corals? Where are they located in relation to the United States?
  • How are deep sea corals different than corals found in tropical environments?
  • What threats are deep sea coral ecosystems facing today?
  • What efforts have been made to protect them?

Address these South Carolina Standards with Curriculum Connection

Standard 3-2: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the structures, characteristics, and adaptations of organisms that allow them to function and survive within their habitats. (Life Science)

3-2.2 Explain how physical and behavioral adaptations allow organisms to survive (including hibernation, defense, locomotion, movement, food obtainment, and camouflage for animals and seed dispersal, color, and response to light for plants).

3-2.3 Recall the characteristics of an organism’s habitat that allow the organism to survive there.

3-2.4 Explain how changes in the habitats of plants and animals affect their survival.

Standard 5-2:The student will demonstrate an understanding of relationships among biotic and abiotic factors within terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. (Life Science)

5-2.2 Summarize the composition of an ecosystem, considering both biotic factors (including populations to the level of microorganisms and communities) and abiotic factors.

5-2.4 Identify the roles of organisms as they interact and depend on one another through food chains and food webs in an ecosystem, considering producers and consumers (herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores), decomposers (microorganisms, termites, worms, and fungi), predators and prey, and parasites and hosts.

5-2.5 Explain how limiting factors (including food, water, space, and shelter) affect populations in ecosystems.

Standard 5-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of features, processes, and changes in Earth’s land and oceans. (Earth Science)

5-3.4 Explain how waves, currents, tides, and storms affect the geologic features of the ocean shore zone (including beaches, barrier islands, estuaries, and inlets).

5-3.2 Illustrate the geologic landforms of the ocean floor (including the continental shelf and slope, the mid-ocean ridge, rift zone, trench, and the ocean basin).

5-3.6 Explain how human activity (including conservation efforts and pollution) has affected the land and the oceans of Earth.

Standard 6-2:The student will demonstrate an understanding of structures, processes, and responses of plants that allow them to survive and reproduce. (Life Science)

6-2.1 Summarize the processes required for plant survival (including photosynthesis, respiration, and transpiration).

Standard 7-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of how organisms interact with and respond to the biotic and abiotic components of their environment. (Earth Science, Life Science)

7-4.1 Summarize the characteristics of the levels of organization within ecosystems (including populations, communities, habitats, niches, and biomes).

Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of materials that determine the structure of Earth and the processes that have altered this structure. (Earth Science)

8-3.6 Explain how the theory of plate tectonics accounts for the motion of the lithospheric plates, the geologic activities at the plate boundaries, and the changes in landform areas over geologic time.

Standard B-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the flow of energy within and between living systems.

B-3.1 Summarize the overall process by which photosynthesis converts solar energy into chemical energy and interpret the chemical equation for the process.

Standard B-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the interrelationships among organisms and the biotic and abiotic components of their environments.

B-6.1 Explain how the interrelationships among organisms (including predation, competition, parasitism, mutualism, and commensalism) generate stability within ecosystems.

B-6.6 Explain how human activities (including population growth, technology, and consumption of resources) affect the physical and chemical cycles and processes of Earth.

Standard ES-3: Students will demonstrate an understanding of the internal and external dynamics of solid Earth.

ES-3.4 Explain how forces due to plate tectonics cause crustal changes as evidenced in earthquake activity, volcanic eruptions, and mountain building.

Standard ES-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the dynamics of Earth’s atmosphere.

ES-4.6 Summarize possible causes of and evidence for past and present global climate changes.

ES-4.7 Summarize the evidence for the likely impact of human activities on the atmosphere (including ozone holes, greenhouse gases, acid rain, and photochemical smog).

Read More about Deep Sea Corals

Visit NOAA’s COral Reef Information System (CORIS) at www.coris.noaa.gov/about/deep to learn more about these unique habitats and associated conservation efforts (9th-12th)

Visit the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council webpage about deepwater corals, specifically Oculina and Lophelia www.safmc.net/ecosystem/HabitatManagement/DeepwaterCorals/tabid/229/Default.aspx Be sure to take a look at the GIS/Mapping link to see where these coral ecosystems are located off of the southeastern coast. (9th-12th)

Corals and Coral Conservation Celebrated During International Year of the Reef

2008 was the International Year of the Reef – visit www.iyor.org to find out efforts worldwide to protect coral habitats. COSEE SE, in support of IYOR, developed a presentation suitable for all ages. Visit www.cosee-se.org to view this presentation on deepwater corals located right off of our coast. (5th-12th)

Lesson Links

Visit NOAA’s Ocean Explorer website. View numerous expeditions including those that explore deepwater habitats and deep sea corals. Hear first hand from scientists who participated in deep sea research. Specifically, for deep sea corals go to: oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/deepeast01/background/corals/corals.html . Then, go to the following link for associated lesson plans: oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/deepeast01/background/education/media/lessonplans.html (5th-12th)

Deep Sea Coral Photos

Visit the NOAA Ocean Explorer website for pictures of deep sea coral habitats. oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/gallery/livingocean/livingocean_coral.html (all grades)


Compare and Contrast Tropical vs. Deep Sea Corals

Corals are beautiful, complex organisms that require the symbiotic relationship between algae and a coral polyp. Take a closer look at the anatomy of a coral polyp by downloading the print out at www.enchantedlearning.com . How are deep sea corals different from those found in the warm, shallow waters of the tropics? Click on the following link for an activity designed to compare tropical and deep sea corals: www.safmc.net/Portals/0/DeepCoralComm/2007%20CoolCorals_LP.pdf (6th-12th)

Conservation of Coral Habitats

Visit the following link for activities designed to promote the conservation of coral habitats: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/education/lessons.htm (5th-12th)

Free Resource

Exploring the Deep is a CD-ROM that showcases deepwater coral habitats. Contact Marine Education Specialist Elizabeth Vernon Bell at elizabeth.bell@scseagrant.org to request a free copy (all grades).