Powerful Shoreline Protection
Healthy coral reefs absorb 97 perfect of a wave’s energy, which buffers shorelines from currents, waves, and storms, helping to prevent loss of life and property damage. Coastlines protected by coral reefs are also more stable in terms of erosion than those without.4
25 Protected Species
Under the Endangered Species Act, 22 coral species are listed as threatened, and three are listed as endangered. The primary threats to coral reefs are climate change, pollution, and impacts from unsustainable fishing.5
Habitat for Millions
About 25 percent of all marine species are found in, on, and around coral reefs, rivaling the biodiversity of tropical rainforests.6
27 Percent Gone
More than one-quarter of the world’s live coral cover has been lost in the last three decades, due to climate change and other factors (see “Mass Bleaching” below). The amount of people negatively impacted—500 million—is 35 percent more than the entire population of the United States.
Mass Bleaching—A Coral Reef Crisis
Higher sea surface temperatures are directly correlated with widespread coral bleaching; “mass” bleaching (covering hundreds of kilometers or more) is driven by prolonged anomalously warm ocean temperatures. In 2016, heat stress encompassed 51 percent of coral reefs globally and was extremely severe—the first mass bleaching (85 percent bleached) of the northern and far-northern Great Barrier Reef killed 29 percent of the reef’s shallow water corals. Bleaching also occurred in much of the western Indian Ocean, including 69 percent to 99 percent of corals bleached and 50 percent dead in the Seychelles.
The third global bleaching event, from 2014 to 2017, brought mass bleaching-level heat stress to more than 75 percent of global reefs; nearly 30 percent also suffered mortality level stress. This bleaching event was the longest, most widespread, and most destructive on record.7