One ocean binds together our world. Of that vast expanse of water, less than one-fourth of 1 percent is occupied by coral reefs — yet reefs are home to more than a quarter of all known marine fish species. Anyone who dives knows that these reefs are dying, but few understand the extent to which human activities threaten these undersea rainforests.
Four years ago, to help gauge the situation, my colleagues produced the first-ever detailed, map-based assessment of threats to coral reefs around the world. The map revealed a grim truth: 58 percent of the world’s reefs are potentially threatened. Many reefs lie just off the shores of regions of extreme poverty and rapid population growth, where human activities are often especially damaging to marine areas that were pristine just a few years ago.
The most species-rich and most extensive coral reefs in the world lie off the coast of Southeast Asia. The region is the global epicenter of marine diversity, containing nearly 34 percent of the world’s reefs and more than 600 of the 800 reef-building coral species. Sadly, th... Read more