One third of reef-building corals around the world are threatened with extinction, according to the first-ever comprehensive global assessment to determine their conservation status.
Coral reefs are home to more than 25 percent of marine species, making them the most biologically diverse of marine ecosystems.
Researchers identified the main threats to corals as climate change and localized stresses resulting from destructive fishing, declining water quality from pollution, and the degradation of coastal habitats.
“These results show that as a group, reef-building corals are more at risk of extinction than all terrestrial groups, apart from amphibians, and are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” said Roger McManus, CI’s vice president for marine programs.
“The loss of the corals will have profound implications for millions of people who depend on coral reefs for their livelihoods.”
Staghorn (Acroporid) corals face the highest risk of extinction, with 52 percent of species listed in a threatened category.
The Caribbean region has the highest number of highly threatened corals (Endangered and Critically Endangered), including the iconic elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) which is listed as Critically Endangered.
The high biodiversity “Coral Triangle” in the western Pacific’s Indo-Malay-Philippine Archipelago has the highest proportions of Vulnerable and Near-Threatened species in the Indo-Pacific, largely resulting from the high concentration of people living in many parts of the region.
Corals from the genera Favia and Porites were found to be the least threatened due to their relatively higher resistance to bleaching and disease.
In addition, 141 species lacked sufficient information to be fully assessed and were therefore listed as Data Deficient. However, researchers believe that many of these species would have been listed as threatened if more information were available.
By 2012, the GMSA plans to complete its comprehensive first stage assessment of the threat of extinction for over 20,000 marine plants and animals, providing an essential baseline for conservation plans around the world, and tracking the extinction risk of marine species.
Full IUCN press release on the IUCN website
More media articles about this report on the wildsingapore news blog.