29.9 billion US dollars per year!

That is a conservative estimate of the value of coral reefs.

9.6 billion is generated by tourism and recreation.
9.0 billion comes from coastal protection
5.6 billion is gained by fisheries
5.5 billion come from biodiversity

  • 500 million people rely on the reefs for their livelihood globally
  • 25% of the fish catch in developing countries comes from coral reefs. This supports one billion people
  • 53 800 jobs are created in created by the Great Barrier Reef in Australia alone
  • Reef tourism accounts for more the 15% of the gross domestic product in 23 of the 94 countries that profit from reef tourism
  • Medicine treasure trove! More than 50% of all modern cancer research focusses on marine organisms. Results from reefs have produced treatments for cancer, HIV, cardiovascular diseases, pain killers, ulcers and much more
  • 150 000 km of coasts in some 100 countries are protected in some way by coral reefs

Can we really afford to loose coral reefs? They are disappearing fast.
20 years - that is all we have

First appearing 650 million years ago, the vastly complex modern coral communities started developing 250 million years ago. They represent a fine balance between all types of marine animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses.

Even a single coral species is not on it’s own. It’s a complex community of many different algae, bacteria, viruses and fungi. As the water quality changes composition of the community changes to adapt. There are limits though!

Some more facts:

  • Coral reefs are more diverse than rainforests
  • They cover less than 1% of the earths surface, but are home to 25% of all marine fish, 4000 species of fish
  • 800 species of corals

Why are the coral reefs dying?

  • Climate change
    • Higher temperatures kill the symbiotic algae
    • Acidification impacts the ability of corals to build their skeletons and for juvenile corals to settle in new areas
    • Climate change induced storms physically destroy reefs
  • Pollution
    • Sediment run-off from land physically smothers reefs
    • Fertilizer runoff from the land encourages the uncontrolled growth of smothering algae, disease bacteria and viruses
    • Toxic wastes from gold mining, heavy metal mining, open cast coal mining escaping directly into rivers and then washing out to sea and poisoning the reef directly.
  • Overfishing
    • Destructive traditional fishing techniques, physically destroy the reefs
    • Explosive fishing
    • Cyanide fishing simply totally kills everything in a reef

What can be done to help?

  • Reduce pollution
    • Introducing new agricultural practices can even be a win-win scenario as with sugar cane farmers in Queensland, Australia
    • Education
    • Enforcing ant-pollution laws
  • Introducing new fishing techniques
    • Supporting coral restoration and protection projects
    • If you cannot physically help, donate to the various organisations helping to protect reefs
    • Coral gardening: this is where corals are farmed and then planted out in new reef areas.
  • Establishing marine protected areas

These notes are being expanded and more will be updated soon,.

Please – do anything you can to help save coral reefs!


What happens if all the coral reefs die? | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)

Pharmacy of the Sea - Divers Alert Network (dan.org)

Value of Reefs | Reef Resilience

Why are coral reefs dying? (unep.org)

Ocean Gardener

Frontiers | Conceptualization of the Holobiont Paradigm as It Pertains to Corals (frontiersin.org)