Coral reefs are among
the largest and oldest living communities of plants and animals
on this planet. Modern reef organisms evolved 200 million years
ago and started building structures resembling modern reefs around
60 million years ago. Coral reefs provide food, security, coastal
protection and livelihoods for communities throughout the world.
A single reef also forms
the direct habitat of thousands of animals and plants.Living coral
reefs are essential for marine life in much of the tropics. They
are critical in the support of human life. Yet, all over the world
the reefs are under severe threat. Already 27% is destroyed. Scientists
say that if the trend continues, another 30% will be destroyed in
another 10-30 years. The main threats to coral reefs are pollution,
sewage, erosion, destructive fishing, overfishing, unsustainable
tourism and climate
IMPORTANCE TO NATURE
No other ecosystem, terrestrial
or marine, supports as many specis of veterbrates as coral reefs.
A single reef may provide habitats for several hundred reef species
within an area of only a few square kilometres. Coral reefs occupy
only 0.25% (less than a 1 percent) of the surface area of the oceans,
yet 25% of the world's species of fish are dependent on coral reefs
in some way for their survival. It is also believed that between
1-9 million species residing in coral reefs have yet to be discovered
IMPORTANCE TO HUMANS
Humans find food from
among the coral reefs. Coral reefs provide 10% of the fishing worldwide
and 25% of fishing in developing countries. In Southeast Asia, 70-90%
of the fish catch is dependent on coral reefs.
Reefs provide a natural
physical barrier, reducing wave energy and prevent coastal erosion
- a severe problem in many areas in the tropics. In many countries,
reefs have been removed and thus resulting in loss of beachfront
communities, villages and towns due to increased coastal flooding.
Billions of dollars had to be used to build artificial coastal protection
systems. A healthy reef will respond to moderatle sea level rise
by growth, making coral reefs a frontline defence for low lying
countries threatened by sea level rise because of climate change.
Tourism is a crucial
and rapidly growing global economic sector, generating tens of billions
of dollars in revenue for countries with healthy coral reefs. In
many tropical countries, it is the most important source of foreign
Coral reefs are of immense
value to all of humankind because of their potential as a source
of pharmaceutical products. The high species diversity and complex
behaviours in coral reefs have resulted in highly complex and sophisticated
biochemical defence systems. Already scientists have found chemicals
used for HIV and cancer treatments in coral reef organisms.
ECONOMIC VALUE OF CORAL
The Potential net benefit
streams per year and Net Present Value (NPV) of the world's coral
(world / SE Asia)
billion / US$2.3 billion
Coastal Protection .....
US$9.0 billion / US$5.0 billion
billion / US$4.9 billion
Biodiversity Value ......
US$5.5 billion / US$0.5billion
billion / US$12.7 billion
NPV (50 year,
3%) US $797.4 billion / US$338.5 billion
Worwide Fund for Nature)
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