Coral reefs provide vital services both to nature and for coastal communities.
It is estimated that between half a billion and one billion people depend on the world’s coral reefs for food and their livlihoods – a number set to rise as the population continues to grow.
In some countries as much as 90% of GDP comes from coral reef based tourism and predictions suggest that the costs of losing the world’s coral could be as high as $400 billion.
They also act as vital sea defence walls for coastal communities and their biodiversity makes them the treasure troves of the oceans, and are home to as much as 25% of marine species.
Yet these biologically diverse and highly valued ecosystems are under threat from human activity. Warming oceans and climate events such as El Nino are causing coral bleaching, while ocean acidification is changing the structure of the reefs and making them less resilient.
Coastal developments cause sedimentation on the reefs, and risk the seep of land-based pollution into the oceans.
Over exploitation and over fishing of the oceans – including destructive techniques such as blast fishing and poison fishing also threaten the coral reefs, and the species which live amongst them.
UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanography Commission has been studying anthropogenic impacts of reef systems globally. For more on their work, visit their website.