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Periodic table of (weather) elements: Calcium and coral

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Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 3:31 - At this very moment coral reefs are protecting shorelines from storms and erosion, providing a home to countless fish and zooplankton species and helping to keep the water clean.

Coral, in all its shapes and forms, is an important part of the ecosystem and the economy.

In addition to providing habitat that supports fisheries and keeps millions of people fed, it also promotes job creation and tourism.
According to NOAA, this valuable resource generates approximately $1.1 billion annually worldwide.


RELATED: Learn about the role hydrogen plays in interstellar clouds


Coral is a marine invertebrate that commonly lives in colonies, or reefs. It comes into being when tiny animals called coral polyps secrete calcium carbonate, creating a hard outer skeleton.

Coral polys form the basic structure of coral reefs.

Experts estimate there are over 6,000 known species of coral.

PHOTOS: INCREDIBLE CORAL


Precious coral



Pillar coral



Closed brain coral



Mushroom coral



Staghorn coral


Photo credit


Cup coral


Photo credit

WHAT IS CALCIUM?

Calcium is what helps coral make its strong surface, but it can be found in many places.

Calcium is the fifth most abundant element in the Earth's crust, making up just over 3% of soil, air and the oceans. 

It's one of the most important elements in the human body because it helps to keep our teeth and bones strong. Ingesting a proper amount of it over the course of your life time can help prevent the inset of osteoporosis. 

Elsewhere in nature, you can find compounds of this element in sedimentary rocks -- like limestone, chalk and marble. 

The first scientist to discover and isolate the element calcium was English chemist Sir Humphry Davy in 1808. He named calcium after the Latin word "calx" -- the Roman word for "lime".

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