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Oceans and Coasts

Protecting and Restoring Coral Reefs

As the largest living structures on the planet, coral reefs are home to 25 percent of all marine species and are important places for fish and other animals to eat, bring up their young and hide from predators. Coral reefs also provide amazing resources for people including food and income that sustains 500 million people, medicines, protection from storms as they break wave energy and incredible places to play and learn.

Coral reefs are also one of the most threatened marine systems. Scientists estimate that unless we take immediate action, we could lose up to 70 percent of coral reefs by 2050. An increase in ocean temperatures of just a few degrees can destroy huge areas of coral reefs through bleaching — a stress response that causes a coral to lose its colorful and protective colony of nutrient-gathering algae.

But for every reef that suffers from bleaching, certain coral communities survive.

We identify these places where fish, corals and other tropical marine life resist bleaching and damage, as well as the factors that contribute to their resilience. By creating networks of protected areas, we help nearby degraded marine habitats recover and rebuild. We also work with local communities to provide managers with tools and training to help make their reefs stronger in the face of climate change and we are partnering with NOAA to advance coral reef conservation efforts in seven United States coral reef jurisdictions.

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