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Coral Reef Ecosystems: Valuable and Threatened
Diverse Coral Reef
A reefscape in the waters offshore of southwestern Guam demonstrates some of the biodiversity found in this region. Photo Credit : Dave Burdick

Healthy coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse, culturally significant, and economically valuable ecosystems on Earth. They provide billions of dollars in food, jobs, recreational opportunities, coastal protection, and other important goods and services to people around the world.

Coral reefs face an increasing number of threats, including pollution, unsustainable fishing practices, and global climate change. According to the Word Resource Institute, more than 60 percent of the world's reefs are under threat from local stressors, like fishing and land-based pollution. That number jumps to 75 percent when local threats to reefs are combined with the threat of thermal stress from a changing climate. As a result, in the U.S. 22 species of coral are now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Given their incredible value, it is now more important than ever to address and reverse the threats impacting coral reef ecosystems. The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program is leading efforts to study and conserve these precious resources for current and future generations.

About the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program

The program was established in 2000 by the Coral Reef Conservation Act to protect, conserve, and restore the nation's coral reefs by maintaining healthy ecosystem function. We focus on four main pillars of work:

  • Increase resilience to climate change
  • Reduce land-based sources of pollution
  • Improve fisheries' sustainability
  • Restore viable coral populations
A Multidisciplinary Approach
Damsel fish scene in a Guam reef
Damsel fish swim among corals in Guam. Photo Credit: Dave Burdick

The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program brings together expertise from across NOAA for a multidisciplinary approach to studying these complex ecosystems to inform more effective management. We work closely with NOAA scientists in the National Ocean Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service.

Collaboration is critical to coral reef conservation. We partner with state and territorial governments, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and community groups to take targeted approaches to local issues that impact coral reef ecosystems.