A bleached anemone in Okinawa, Japan; photo by The Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey.

Reef Threats

Although they cover less than 0.1 percent of the earth’s surface, coral reefs are the most biodiverse marine ecosystems in the world. They are also among the most threatened. Today, coral reefs face multiple stressors at different scales. When global threats like warming waters combine with direct threats like overfishing and water pollution, it severely compromises the ability of corals to grow, reproduce and thrive. As much as one-third of all reef-building corals are at risk of extinction. Scientists predict that all corals will be threatened by 2050, with 75 percent facing high to critical threat levels.

However, there is a reason for hope. There are many clear-cut actions that can help coral reef ecosystems. The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) works at multiple scales from local to global to address reef threats. At a local level, when we reduce direct threats to reefs—such as pollution, overfishing or unsustainable tourism—reefs are healthier and more capable of withstanding the effects of climate change, like bleaching and ocean acidification. At a regional and global level, we help reefs by establishing Adaptive Reefscapes – networks of healthy reefs that enable corals to adapt to climate change because they are diverse, connected and large.