Coral Reefs & Global Climate Change: Potential Contributions of Climate Change to Stresses on Coral Reef Ecosystems

  • February 01, 2004

Coral reefs represent some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth, providing critical habitat to approximately 25 percent of marine species. In addition, these ecosystems provide economic benefits through tourism and fisheries.

One recent estimate valued the annual net economic benefits of the world's coral reefs at $30 billion. However, human activities including development in coastal areas, over-fishing, and pollution have contributed to a global loss of over 10 percent of these valuable ecosystems. An additional 15 percent have been lost due to warming of the surface ocean, and climate change will further contribute to coral reef degradation in the decades ahead.