Threats to Coral Reefs
"Coral reefs represent some of the world's most spectacular beauty spots, but they are also the foundation of marine life: without them many of the sea's most exquisite species will not survive." ~ Sheherazade Goldsmith
Coral reefs are colorful underwater forests which teem with life and act as a natural protective barrier for coastal regions. The fishes and plants which call them home belong to some of the most diverse and fragile ecosystems on the planet.
Coral Reefs are under threat throughout the world. A recent report estimated that 75 percent of remaining coral reefs are currently threatened, and many have already been lost. If current pressures continue then 60% of the world’s coral reefs may be severely damaged by 2050.
Storms and Cyclones
Coral reefs can be damaged by hurricanes, cyclones, and tsunamis. Wave activity can break apart corals. Branching corals are more susceptible to storm damage than mound-building corals. Though short-term events, cyclones have long-lasting consequences on coral reef communities, evolution and growth.
Warmer water temperatures brought on by climate change stress corals because they are very sensitive to changes in temperature. If water temperatures stay higher than usual for many weeks, the zooxanthellae they depend on for some of their food leave their tissue. Without zooxanthellae, corals turn white because zooxanthellae give corals their color. Large, fleshy seaweeds (macroalgae), which compete with corals for space on the reef, will also benefit from rising temperatures and coral bleaching. Scientists have shown that degrading reefs can be rapidly overgrown by these macroalgae, which in turn impede coral recovery.
Coral reefs are also highly vulnerable to ocean acidification. Hard corals and many other organisms that contribute to reef building, such as coralline algae, make their skeletons from calcium carbonate (limestone). The rate of skeleton formation, known as calcification, will slow if waters become more acidic and the skeletons of these animals and plants will be weaker. This means that coral colonies in the future may be more brittle and less resilient to other factors influencing their survival.
Sediment, nutrient and pesticide pollution from catchment run-off is having a major impact on the health and resilience of the reef ecosystem.
Marine debris also affects reefs in many areas. Marine debris is any human-made object that is discarded, disposed of, or abandoned that enters coastal and ocean waters. Debris may enter directly from a ship or indirectly when washed out to sea via rivers, streams, and storm drains.
Destructive fishing practices
These include cyanide fishing, blast or dynamite fishing, bottom trawling, and muro-ami (banging on the reef with sticks). Bottom-trawling is one of the greatest threats to cold-water coral reefs.
Tourism has caused severe damage to the reefs. Corals are often removed from their habitat to be sold as souvenirs. Also, in some coastal areas with rapidly growing populations and development, piers and docks have been built right on top of coral reefs. Careless divers often inadvertently destroy coral reefs by kicking them or dropping anchors from their boats directly onto the coral.
Coral Reef Conservation Organizations
|The Nature Conservancy|
From coral reefs to deserts, the Nature Conservancy works to protect the lands and waters that plants and animals need to survive for us and for future generations. The Conservancy has fisheries and marine conservation programs around the globe in important seascapes including marine projects in every coastal state and territory of the U.S. The Nature Conservancy is dedicated to protecting these vital ecosystems and all the corals, fish and people that depend on them.
ReefBase was created to facilitate sustainable management of coral reefs and related coastal/marine environments, in order to benefit poor people in developing countries whose livelihoods depend on these natural resources.
WWF's Global Marine Programme supports the conservation of WWF's marine Priority Places and species (cetaceans, turtles and sharks), as well as the work of relevant WWF Global Initiatives: Smart Fishing, Market Transformation, Coral Triangle, Coastal East Africa and Arctic.
|Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority|
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority was established to protect and encourage the wise use and understanding of the Great Barrier Reef through the care and development of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
|Coral Cay Conservation|
Coral Cay Conservation is an award winning NGO that specialises in the organisation of community based coral reef and tropical forest expeditions. We were established in 1986 and are a division of the Lifesigns Group. We provide resources to help sustain livelihoods and alleviate poverty through the protection, restoration and management of coral reefs and tropical forests.
Habitat destruction is the greatest threat to wildlife today. Wildlife and wild places cannot survive without the preservation and protection of habitat. For more than 20 years we have fostered a synergistic partnership between schools, informal science institutions, in-situ conservation organizations, in-country non-governmental organizations, and the public in the form of families and individuals, all working towards the preservation of the wildest creatures and places on earth.
|Coral Reef Alliance|
CORAL Reef Alliance takes a multi-pronged approach to restoring and protecting coral reefs in partnership with the communities living nearest the reefs. Our strategies include:
Reducing local threats to reefs, including overfishing, poor water quality, and unsustainable development.
|Global Coral Reef Alliance|
The Global Coral Reef Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to growing, protecting and managing the most threatened of all marine ecosystems - coral reefs. GCRA is a coalition of volunteer scientists, divers, environmentalists and other individuals and organizations, committed to coral reef preservation. We primarily focus on coral reef restoration, marine diseases and other issues caused by global climate change, environmental stress and pollution. We employ a method which allows reefs to survive and recover from damage caused by excessive nutrients, climate change, and physical destruction.
|Great Barrier Reef Foundation|
The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is fostering a resilient reef for all generations by catalysing and funding science that informs, encourages and inspires. The Foundation is the only independent, not-for-profit organisation in Australia dedicated solely to raising funds for scientific research into preserving the Great Barrier Reef.
Founded in 1996, the Reef Check Foundation exists to help preserve the oceans and reefs which are critical to our survival, yet are being destroyed. With headquarters in Los Angeles and volunteer teams in more than 90 countries and territories, Reef Check works to protect tropical coral reefs and California rocky reefs through education, research and conservation.
In partnership with community groups and government agencies, Reef Relief coordinates volunteer programs that cultivate an attitude of stewardship within the community. Since 2010, Reef Relief's coastal clean-up program has removed over 24,000 lbs of marine debris from the shores and waters of the Florida Keys. The Coral Camp Summer Program uses interactive activities and field trips to teach children 6- 12 years of age about ocean ecology, coral reefs, marine life and sustainability. Camp activities include lessons on identification of common corals, fish, and invertebrates, oceanography, tides, symbiosis, snorkel etiquette and leave no trace principles.
|The Ocean Foundation|
Our nine initiatives are: International Sustainable Aquaculture, Coral Reefs, Coasts and Beaches, Marine Mammals, Polar Seas, Sea Turtles, Ocean Leadership, World Oceans, and Ocean Acidification.
|The Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO)|
The Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO) is a charitable company founded in Belize in 1995 whose objectives include promoting increased environmental awareness, sustainable development of the country's natural resources, and stewardship of cultural and natural resources by the people of Belize, through the publication and distribution of educational information and outreach programs.
Establishing research centers for analysis of scientific data and dissemination, and educational purposes.
|Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF)|
Reef Environmental Education Foundation is a grass-roots organization that seeks to conserve marine ecosystems by educating, enlisting and enabling divers and other marine enthusiasts to become active ocean stewards and citizen scientists.
|Love The Oceans|
Love the Oceans volunteers form our research teams, collecting two different but equally important data sets. We believe that due to the high biodiversity present, the reefs in Guinjata Bay offer an exciting opportunity for the local community to generate sustainable sources of revenue from the marine environment through various ecotourism based initiatives. To provide evidence for this, the first data set consists of benthic habitat assessments of the Guinjata Bay reefs. The volunteers collect this data during their diving week on the program. Through non-destructive visual censuses, volunteers quantify fish species abundance and diversity. From this, biodiversity on the reefs will be calculated and used as an indicator for reef health.
WILDCOAST conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. WILDCOAST has helped conserve more than 3.2 million acres of globally significant bays, beaches, lagoons, coral reefs and islands, we will expand our work.
Wildcoast helps conserve 17,536 acres of Marine Proteced Areas in Southern California. WILDCOAST works to preserve key ecosystems by applying conservation tools such as land acquisition, conservation concessions and zoning as well as developing protected areas. WILDCOAST helped conserve 1,125 acres of coral reefs in Mexico, and we will keep expanding our reach.
|The Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition|
The Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition is a group of organizations working together to conserve, protect and restore Florida's coastal and marine environment. The Coalition emphasizes the implementation of an eco-system based approach to coastal and ocean management, as well as recognition of the important linkage between the health of Florida's economy and the health of its beaches and dunes, coral reefs, mangroves, sea grasses, wetlands and other natural resources.
|Hawai'i Wildlife Fund (HWF)|
HAWAI'I WILDLIFE FUND (HWF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the CONSERVATION of Hawaii's native wildlife through research, education and ADVOCACY. HWF Team is made up of educators, conservationists, researchers, naturalists, communities, volunteers and donors devoted to the protection of Hawaii's fragile marine ecosystem and inhabitants. We bring a variety of experiences together to serve a common goal. We are actively engaging the community in research, education and conservation projects.
|Ocean Ark Alliance|
Ocean Ark Alliance (OAA) is not-for-profit organisation based in Australia, dedicated to promoting and sponsoring marine education and the conservation of oceanic environments (with particular emphasis on tropical coral reefs, coastal communities and polar biomes). Its appointed directors are Simon Marsh, Dr. J.E. N Veron, Guy Morel and its founder David Hannan. Dr Marc Y Burdick, a co-founder of OAA, is currently setting up a USA based branch of OAA. OAA is part of a global network of Development Partners which includes marine scientists, researchers and undersea explorers, film-makers, photographers, artists and media specialists, educators, conservation organisations and businesses. OAA has representatives in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, France, The Czech Republic, Russia, China, The Philippines, Japan, The Cook Islands, and The Seychelles.
The Marine Conservation Science Institute (MCSI) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded on the belief that focused research can make a difference in how we view and manage our marine resources. MCSI is committed to promoting important issues in marine biology and fisheries, and is currently involved in research projects around the globe dedicated to protecting and conserving marine resources.