Reefs at Risk Revisited – Key Messages

Message #1: A new, comprehensive analysis confirms that the majority of the world’s coral reefs are threatened due to human activities.

  • Approximately 75% of world’s coral reefs are currently threatened by a combination of local and global pressures. This includes recent impacts from climate change, which causes rising ocean temperatures and coral bleaching.
  • The most immediate and direct threats arise from local sources, which currently threaten more than 60% of coral reefs. Local threats include overfishing, destructive fishing, coastal development, and pollution.
  • Left unchecked, the percent of threatened reefs will increase to more than 90% by 2030 and to nearly all reefs by 2050.
  • Threat levels have increased dramatically over a ten-year period. In the 10 years since the first Reefs at Risk analysis, threats have increased in 30% of reefs (comparing data from 1997 and 2007)

Message #2: For the first time, this analysis includes impacts from climate change, coral bleaching, and changes in ocean chemistry, which are significant and growing global threats to reefs.

  • Impact of CO2: Rising carbon dioxide emissions are warming the atmosphere and, as a result, increasing sea surface temperatures.
  • Coral bleaching: Mass coral bleaching, a stress response to warming waters, has occurred in every coral reef region and is becoming more frequent as higher temperatures recur.
  • Rising acidity: Increasing carbon dioxide in the ocean is raising its acidity, which can slow coral growth rates and, ultimately, weaken coral skeletons.

Message #3: Reefs hold great value for people around the world who depend on them for food, protection, recreation, income, and even pharmaceutical use.

  • People: More than 275 million people live in the direct vicinity (30km/18 miles) of coral reefs.
  • Shorelines: Coral reefs protect 150,000 km [over 93,000 miles] of shorelines in more than 100 countries and territories – helping defend against storms and erosion.
  • Tourism: At least 94 countries and territories benefit from tourism related to reefs; in 23 of these, reef tourism accounts for more than 15% of gross domestic product (GDP).
  • Disease Prevention: Many reef-dwelling species harbor the potential for forming life-saving pharmaceuticals, including treatments for cancer, HIV, malaria, and other diseases.

Message #4: The report finds people living in some countries are particularly vulnerable to reef loss and degradation.

  • For the first time, the report identifies the 27 nations most vulnerable to coral reef degradation and loss in the world (this is out of 108 reef countries assessed). Of these, 19 are small island nations.
  • The nine countries most vulnerable to the effects of coral reef degradation are: Haiti, Grenada, Philippines, Comoros, Vanuatu, Tanzania, Kiribati, Fiji, and Indonesia.
  • Reefs in these countries face high threats – and the people are highly dependent on reefs and have limited capacity to adapt to reef loss.

Message: #5: Growing awareness means unprecedented attention is now being given to reef conservation. It is not enough, but it points the way to a better future.

  • Currently over one-quarter of the world’s coral reefs fall within marine protected areas, a higher proportion than for any other marine habitat.
  • However, only 6% of the world’s coral reefs are located in effectively managed MPAs and 13% are in areas rated as only partially effective for achieving management goals.

Message #6: This information offers a new opportunity for policy makers, government officials, ocean managers, and others to better understand the threats, to take action to protect reefs, and to manage risks locally and globally.

  • Reefs are resilient— they can recover from coral bleaching and other impacts.
  • Reducing local pressures on reefs— overfishing, coastal development and pollution— offers the best way to “buy time” for reefs and help them survive warming seas and ocean acidification.
  • Meanwhile the global community needs to do more to reduce global pressures, especially rising greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide.

About the report:

  • Reefs at Risk Revisited is the most detailed assessment of the threats to the world’s coral reefs ever undertaken. It maps out local and global pressures; assesses the vulnerability of people in reef-dependent countries; and provides recommendations to safeguard reefs into the future.
  • The analysis uses the latest data and satellite information to map coral reefs—including a reef map that has a resolution 64 times higher than the original Reefs at Risk report from 1998.
  • This new comprehensive report is led by the World Resources Institute, along with The Nature Conservancy, the WorldFish Center, ICRAN, UNEP-WCMC, GCRMN, and a network of more than 25 global partners to raise awareness of the threats to reefs and how to protect these valuable and beautiful ecosystems.

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