Image © Matthew Oldfield

Coral reefs are highly vulnerable ecosystems that today are endangered by a wide range of activities.

Threats ranging from global warming to dynamite fishing can impact corals on global or highly localised scales. Alarmingly, many of these threats occur concurrently and produce consequences much more severe than would be predicted from the additive impact of individual threats. This is known as synergy.

With up to 95% of reefs threatened in some parts of the world, there is a real need to understand how these problems can be sustainably mitigated and to do that we must understand what the threats are, how they are triggered and where they are most prevalent.

In this section you will be introduced to the major threats facing coral reefs around the world and learn just how each one is devastating reef ecosystems.


Over 60% of the world’s reefs are under immediate and direct threat from local human activity

Ocean acidification can slow or even reverse coral growth rates

Overfishing and destructive fishing practices impact 55% of reef ecosystems

75% of the world’s reefs are considered threatened today

In some parts of the world, a staggering 95% of reefs are under threat

Rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2 are leading to an increase in global temperature averages

Specific threats facing specific reefs are often poorly understood

Deforestation is a major cause of sedimentation in coral reef habitats

A mass bleaching event in 1998 killed 16% of the world’s corals

Around 30% of our CO2 emissions are absorbed by the ocean, increasing its acidity

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