Coral reefs - Facts and figures

20 March 2013 | Article

Coral reefs are highly diverse ecosystems vital to the welfare of human populations throughout the tropical area. The immediate threat to coral reefs from climate change is acute; 16% of the world’s reef suffered serious damages during the global bleaching event of 1998.

• More than 450 million people live within 60 kilometres of coral reefs, with the majority directly or indirectly deriving food and income from them
• Properly managed coral reefs can yield an average of 15 tonnes of fish and other seafood per square kilometre each year
• Occupying less than one quarter of 1% of the marine environment, coral reefs are home to more than 25% of all known marine fish species
• 32 of the 34 recognised animal Phyla are found on coral reefs compared to 9 Phyla in tropical rainforests
• Average live coral cover on Caribbean reefs has declined to just 8% of the reef today, compared with more than 50% in the 1970s

What needs to be done?
• Help coral reef systems become more resilient to climate change and ocean acidification by reducing additional human pressures (overfishing, sedimentation, destructive fishing practices, mining, unregulated tourism, etc)
• Continue to monitor and respond to coral reef bleaching events, which occur when sea surface temperatures rise above a critical threshold. Immediate management actions can help reefs recover rather than die off.
• Put larger areas of coral reef inside enforced marine protected areas, including no-take zones
• Take meaningful action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions

What is IUCN doing?
• IUCN chairs the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, which works to strengthen the scientific understanding of the status and trends of coral reef ecosystems at different places around the world by developing the capacity of regional coral reef scientists to provide rigorous scientific information on reefs in their area. The information is then used to inform policy makers and local communities on how best to protect their reefs.
• IUCN is training rangers and coral managers in selected areas of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean on coral reef management principles, tourism best practice and species identification.
• IUCN is working with the tourism industry to develop Marine Managed Areas in the Maldives and other areas of the Indian Ocean in order to safeguard coral reefs for future generations of tourists to enjoy.