22nd March 2005

The 2002 report on the status of the world’s coral reefs is a mix of bad news and good news

However, there is strong evidence that the corner is being turned in our ability to stop reef decline, provided this continues to be supported by sufficient political will. We can predict gains in coral reef health at specific sites in many regions within the coming two decades.

Report published and can be downloaded at GCRMN Website Publications page

Abstract

Two sets of counteracting human activities are affecting the destiny of the world’s coral reefs:

  • reefs are continuing to decline in many areas around the world due to steadily increasing threats from direct human pressures and indirect pressures of Global Climate Change; but
  • there are many conservation and management projects being initiated at international, regional, national and local levels to arrest the declines in coral reef health in specific areas, and some of these initiatives are showing considerable success.

The 2002 report on the status of the world’s coral reefs is a mix of bad news and good news, but there is strong evidence that the corner is being turned in our ability to stop reef decline, provided this continues to be supported by sufficient political will.

We can predict gains in coral reef health at specific sites in many regions within the coming 2 decades.

Many different projects are reducing the damaging human impacts on coral reefs and also setting more reefs aside for protection.

Unfortunately, a large proportion of the world’s reefs are outside protected areas, and much effort will be needed to replicate the small-scale successes at national and regional scales. In addition, many coral reef countries do not have national coral reef programs or monitoring plans, and are often unaware of the extent of damage to their reefs.

Many of the coral reefs that were severely damaged during the 1998 mass coral bleaching are showing encouraging signs of slow to moderate rates of recovery.

However, there are also many reefs where recovery is barely evident.

There has been more recovery on unstressed and protected reefs, whereas reefs being stressed by high levels of sediment and nutrient pollution and over-fishing are still largely bare of live corals.

There is one significant proviso for recovery.

These improvements could be largely negated if the predicted threats posed by Global Climate Change of increasing sea surface temperatures and concentrations of CO2 in seawater cause catastrophic bleaching and result in major reductions in the capacity of corals to calcify and grow.

This report brings together the assessment of reef status by 151 authors for more than 100 countries, which are assembled into 17 regions.

For most countries, there is recent information, but for others no new data have been received since the last report in 2000.

Scroll to Top