Arlington, VA (July 10, 2008) A 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. The study findings were published today by Science Express.
Leading coral experts joined forces with the Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA) a joint initiative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Conservation International (CI) to apply the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria to this important group of marine species.
"The results of this study are very disconcerting," stated Kent Carpenter, lead author of the Science article, GMSA Director, IUCN Species Programme. "When corals die off, so do the other plants and animals that depend on coral reefs for food and shelter, and this can lead to the collapse of entire ecosystems."
Built over millions of years, coral reefs are home to more than 25 percent of marine species, making them the most biologically diverse of marine ecosystems. Corals produce reefs in shallow tropical and sub-tropical seas and have been shown to be highly sensitive to changes in their environment.
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. Climate change causes rising water temperatures and more intense solar radiation, which lead to coral bleaching and disease often resulting in mass coral mortality.
Shallow water corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae called zooxanthellae, which live in their soft tissues and provide the coral with essential nutrients and energy from photosynthesis and are the reason why corals have such beautiful colors. Coral bleaching is the result of a stress response, such as increased water temperatures, whereby the algae are expelled f
|Contact: Susan Bruce|