Current estimates are that 10 percent of all coral reefs are degraded beyond recovery. Thirty percent are in critical condition and may die within the next 10 to 20 years. Experts predict that if current pressures are allowed to continue, 60 percent of the world’s coral reefs may die by 2050.
Scientists believe the decline of coral reefs is due to both natural and human causes. Hurricanes and diseases can weaken and damage reefs, but if they are healthy they can usually overcome these stresses. However, many coral reefs are damaged by human causes such as pollution and overfishing, which weakens their ability to recover from natural hazards.
The following links provide information about current scientific research, the use of satellite imagery and GPS (Global Positioning System) technology, and what is being done to help monitor and protect the reefs.
Natural hazards and threats to coral reefs may include hurricanes, cyclones or disease outbreaks. Weather-related damage can break apart reefs, while disease microbes weaken or kill coral.
Human activities pose the most serious threats to the survival of coral reefs. Pollutants from human activities cause significant changes in the water chemistry of coral ecosystems. Overfishing and overuse for commercial and recreational purposes also endangers coral reefs.
The biodiversity of coral reefs has led to the development of new medicines for cancer, arthritis, and other diseases. The economic impact of reefs is in the billions of dollars, providing jobs and income through tourism. Find out how humans depend on and benefit from coral reefs.
The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force works to protect and conserve coral reefs using GPS and satellite imagery to map reefs and monitor their health. Refer to these online resource to learn how you can help protect coral reef resources.