Front Matter
 Back Matter
 Back Cover

Title: Reefs at risk
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00095888/00001
 Material Information
Title: Reefs at risk a map-based indicator of threats to the world's coral reefs
Physical Description: 56 p. : col. ill., col. maps ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Bryant, Dirk
Burke, Lauretta
McManus, John
Spalding, Mark
Donor: unknown ( endowment ) ( endowment ) ( endowment ) ( endowment )
Publisher: World Resources Institute
Place of Publication: Washington D. C.
Publication Date: 1998
Copyright Date: 1998
Subject: Coral reef ecology   ( lcsh )
Endangered ecosystems   ( lcsh )
Coral reefs and islands   ( lcsh )
Coral reefs and islands -- Maps   ( lcsh )
Endangered ecosystems -- Maps   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 54-56).
General Note: Errata slip inserted.
Statement of Responsibility: Dirk Bryant ... et al. ; contributing authors, Maria Carmen Ablan ... et al..
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00095888
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 39484605
lccn - 98086375
isbn - 1569732574


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Table of Contents
    Front Matter
        Front Matter 1
        Front Matter 2
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    Back Matter
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    Back Cover
        Page 58
Full Text




Sj--- -I- S i51
o f A h rt

Word' C Re f

"In some areas human activity has destroyed entire reefs, converting them to algal-covered rubble. Who knows what

species, known and unknown alike, have already been wiped out? Who can say which ones will be winking out in

the near future, their intricate genetic codes, formed over millennia, suddenly gone. ..."

-Osha Gray Davidson, The Enchanted Braid

More than forty years ago, I slipped into a sunlit
ocean, clear as air, not far from Miami, Florida, and
glided into a kaleidoscope forest of lavender sea fans,
cavernous sponges, and giant stands of elkhom coral.
Thousands of fish moved about like animated frag-
ments of stained glass, and other creatures-red starfish,
black urchins, pink cucumbers, translucent anemones,
blue shrimp, brown crabs, silver hydroids, and numer-
ous others I could not name-embroidered every inch
of aquatic real estate as far as I could see in all direc-
tions. I witnessed that afternoon-my first of thousands
of dives on coral reefs around the world-a fair cross
section of the major divisions of life that have ever
existed on this planet. Nearly all of the major phyla of
animals and plants, as well as microbes, have at least
some representation in the sea, and most include coral
reef species. Only about half occur on the land, even in
the richest forests, swamps, and grasslands, Diving into
a healthy, productive coral reef system as I did on that
afternoon long ago, I traveled far into the history of life
on earth, a surreal journey into time.

Recently, I returned hoping to relocate that under-
water Garden of Eden, but found only barren coral
skeletons shrouded with gray-brown sediment. Again,
it seemed that I had traveled in time, only now the direc-
tion was a swift fast-forward fantasy, a glimpse of the
future. In my lifetime, I had witnessed change on a geo-
logical scale, wrought by my species. The rapid growth of
population in central and south Florida has had hidden
costs-the consumption, in decades, of species and nat-
ural ecosystems millions of years in the making.

Worldwide, including in some parts of Florida, there
are coral reefs and entire reef systems that appear to be
as pristine today as they were in ages past, but there is
no doubt that there is an alarming global trend of
define. Until half a century ago, the worst threats to
coral reefs were storms, volcanic eruptions, periodic ice
ages, and occasional comets striking the Earth. However,
since the 1950s, and at an accelerating pace, humankind
has added significant new pressures ranging from out-
right mining of coral for building materials, widespread
pollution, and destructive fishing practices to loss of
vital related mangrove and seagrass ecosystems.

Concern has been growing for decades about the fate
of coral reefs, especially in recent years as more and
more people have access to these underwater worlds
and have come to realize their value for reasons that
both embrace and transcend aesthetic, scientific, eco-
nomic, and environmental considerations. Many more
who have not seen these notorious "rainforests of the
sea" for themselves have been made aware of their
importance and are motivated to want to do something
to stay their swift loss. In 1997, which the United
Nations declared as the "International Year of the Reef,"
many questions were raised about just how widespread
the problems are and what can be done to help protect
what remains of healthy systems-and restore those
that are damaged.

Although coral reefs have become the subject of thou-
sands of research projects in the past few years, remark-
ably little has been done to attempt a global assessment
of where and what are the most pressing problems. Yet,
such information is vital if effective action plans are to
be devised. The authors of this report have taken an
ingenious approach to gauge the areas most at risk, as
well as to highlight those with varying degrees of sanc-
tity, by correlating what is known about the distribution
of reefs with the distribution of known human impacts.
The result is a monumental overview, one that can be
used to help guide conservation efforts on a grand
scale-as well as up dose, locally.

As human population grows, so will the pressures on
the natural systems that sustain us. Reefs at Risk: A Map-
Based Indicator of Threats to the World's Coral Reefs makes
it possible to pull back and gain perspective on past
problems as an effective way to anticipate-and perhaps
prevent-potential disasters in the making. The fate of
coral reefs, the ocean, and humankind forty years from
now and forevermore will depend on the intelligence,
motivation, and caring of people now alive. In that
spirit, this report provides hope that we may succeed.

Sylvia A. Earle
Explorer-in-Residence, National Geographic Society
Chairman, Deep Ocean Exploration
and Research Organization

Coral Reefs of the World Classified by Potential Threat from Human Activities


- i ,




r *

* S

t II.




Estimated Theat
to Coral Reefs
a low

0-5 0m
200- 2000m
J > 4000m

Map Projedon: Mercator

Dab Sources
Reef locations are basd on 4-ometer-reso(uton
griddea data rejecting shalow coral reefs of the
World from he World Consemation Montoing
Cuntra (WCMC).

Reefs are dasfied according to the Reefs at Rk
Indiator, an els mate of potential threat to coral refs
deveoped at the Wold RMsource Institute (WRI).
This estrnate Is a composite of four separate
risfk factors:
1) Coastal Dwlopwd
2) Marne-based Polution
3) Ovrexploitalon and
4) Inland Polluton and Erosion

lco o ince aa alconmW
"===MbMMMM.w .

The Reefs at RM Analsela produced a map-based l catfo of potenarl thats to oral rees.
In rder to capre the potential Ureats to coral reefs fomn coastal develop marine portion.
overmpli on of mariLn resources. and band poIloruon distancebased threat surtaos nw
developed from 12 repmoretatve stbessors. These Included clts., stlemnents, aiport. and
mrtay baes population density, mines, toudst resorts, pat, oil tanfk and wlls, shipping routes
and aeas nheU blMat fishing or ftshng using poisons Is known to occur. Additknally. a
waterhed-based model was used to estimate potential eroeon withn the watershed to produce
an estimate of areas potentlaly threatened by inland pollution and sedmentation. The 13 threat
surfaces wre Integrated with data on coral reefs location, rutting i a global cssflcaton o
polnta threat to corad reefs.

The Reefs at Risk Projed ct a colaboraton of The Word Resources Irttute,
The Internaonal Center for Lvn Aquatic Resofces Managemant, and
The World Conservation MonloMng Centre.

ii R E E F S AT R I S K









o th

s Coral






Contributing Authors: Maria Carmen Ablan, Charles Victor Barber, Cindy Cabote, Herman Cesar, Terry Done,
Maharlina Luz Gorospe, Hector Guzman, Pamela Hallock, Julie Hawkins, Art Hayman, Gregor Hodgson,
Stephen Jameson, Jim Maragos, Don McAllister, Lambert Menez, Chou Loke Ming, Sara Moola, N.A. Muthiga,
Kathleen P. K. Reyes, Callum Roberts, Frederick Schueler, Irene Uy, Sheila Vergara, Alan White, Clive Wilkinson
A joint publication by World Resources Institute (WRI), International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management
(ICLARM), World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)



of Thr




Carol Rosen
Publications Director

Hyacinth Billings
Production Manager

Cover Photograph by
Jan C. Post
World Bank

Each World Resources Institute Report represents a timely, scholarly treatment of a subject of public concern. WRI takes
responsibility for choosing the study topics and guaranteeing its authors and researchers freedom of inquiry. It also solicits
and responds to the guidance of advisory panels and expert reviewers. Unless otherwise stated, however, all the interpreta-
tion and findings set forth in WRI publications are those of the authors.

Copyright 1998 World Resources Institute. All rights reserved.
ISBN 1-55963-257-4
Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 98-86375
Printed in the United States of America on Recycled Paper


A know ledgm ents ........................................................ 4
Fo rew o rd ........................................................................... . . 5
K ey F in d in g s ........................................................ 6
Introduction ........................................................ ... .... ................
Reefs and People: What Is at Stake? ................................... ... ......8
Threats to Reefs .......... ............ ......... ................ .................. 11
The Reefs at Risk Indicator .............................................................. 17
Status of the World's Coral Reefs .........................................................20
Tw elve Reefs at Risk ................. ................. .......................................... 32
Improving Our Knowledge Base ................................ ... ........................ 38
Protecting the Health of Coral Reef Ecosystems ...........................................41
Technical Notes ......... ................. ........................47
A b out th e A uth ors ........................................ ................................. ........ ............. 5 3
E n d n o te s ................ .................................. .............................................5 4

Coral Reefs of the World Classified by Potential Threat
fro m H u m an A ctiv cities ..................................................... ......................................................ii

MAP 1: Coral Bleaching Has Been Observed Worldwide............................................. 13
MAP 2: Destructive Fishing is Widespread in Southeast Asia .......................................................16
MAP 3: Most Areas with High Reef Fish Species Diversity Are Threatened... ..............................30
MAP 4: ... And Most Areas With High Reef Fish Species Diversity Are Not Protected ................3 1
MAP 5: Threatened Reefs and Signs of Promise-Reef Locations.................................. ...33
MAP 6: Marine Protected Areas of the World............................................................... 45
MAP 7: Regions Used for Sum m ary Statistics.............................................................................. 50

T ro p ical A m ericas .................. . ........................................................................................................2 2
In d ian O cean .................. . ................................................................................................................ 2 3
Seas of the M middle East ....................................................... ...................... .................... 2 5
E ast A sia ........................................ .................................................................. ................ . . 2 6
P pacific O cean .........................................................................2 8- 2 9



The World Resources Institute would like to acknowledge
the United Nations Environment Programme, The Bay
Foundation, The David & Lucile Packard Foundation,
The Henry Foundation, The Swedish International
Development Cooperation Agency, and the United States
Environmental Protection Agency for their encouragement
and financial support.

The Reefs at Risk analysis would not have been possible
without the data and expert advice provided by our collab-
orators-the World Conservation Monitoring Centre and
the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources
Management. We also wish to acknowledge the many
experts who reviewed the Reefs at Risk i,. rl;,..t.,l,..zr and

Attended the methodology review workshop, August,
1997 in Washington, DC: Tundy Agardy (Conservation
International), Nicole Glineaur (World Bank), Marea
Hatziolos (World Bank), Jan Post (World Bank), Jack
Sobel (Center for Marine Conservation), Edward Towle
(Island Resources Foundation), John Tschirkey (The
Nature Conservancy), John Waugh (IUCN-US).

Attended the workshop on methodology and results for
the world, September, 1997 in Manila: Chou Loke
Ming (Dept of Zoology-Natioal University of Singapore),
Terry Done (Australian Institute of Marine Science), Clive
Wilkinson (Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network,
Australian Institute of Marine Science), Gregor Hodgson
(Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development
Research Centre, Hong Kong University of Science and
Technology), Jim Canon (Conservation International),
Perry Alino (Marine Science Institute, University of the
Philippines), Alan White (Coastal Resource Management
Project), Pamela Hallock (Dept of Marine Science,
University of South Florida), James Maragos (East-West
Center), Malikusworo Hutomo (Research and
Development Center for Oceanography, Indonesian
Institute of the Sciences), Hector Guzman (Smithsonian
Tropical Research Institute, Panama).

Others who provided input (on methodology and/or
results): Bruce Potter (Island Resources Foundation),
Don McAllister (Ocean Voice International), Jane
Lubchenco (Dept of Zoology, Oregon State University),

Bob Stallard (U.S. Geological Survey), John Milliman
(VIMS, University of Virginia), Stephen Jameson (Coral
Seas), Herman Cesar (World Bank), Lynne Z. Hale
(University of Rhode Island).

Individuals who contributed to the species richness vs
risk analysis: Callum Roberts (University of York), Don
McAllister (Ocean Voice International), Julie Hawkins
(University of York), Fred Schueler (Ocean Voice

Staff from partner organizations involved in
September workshop and/or otherwise helped with the
methodology: Mark Spalding (WCMC), John McManus
(ICLARM), Sheila Vergara (ICLARM), Maria Carmen
Ablan (ICLARM), Irene Uy (ICLARM), Lambert Mefez
(ICLARM), Maharlina Luz Gorospe (ICLARM),
Kathleen P. K. Reyes (ICLARM).

Other external reviewers of draft: Sylvia Earle
(National Geographic), Stephen Colwell (Coral Reef
Alliance), Paul Holthus (World Wildlife Fund), Rodney
Salm (World Conservation Union-IUCN), Sue Wells
(World Wildlife Fund), George Woodwell (Woods Hole
Research Center).

WRI staff involved in the workshops, reviewed the
draft and/or otherwise helped with the methodology
(excludes authors): Walt Reid, Siobhan Murray, Sheila
Ferguson, Charles Barber, Allen Hammond, Dan
Tunstall, Daniel Nielsen, Eric Rodenburg, Sara Moola,
Jake Brunner, Norbert Henninger, Carmen Revenga.

WRI staff who assisted with fundraising, production of
the report, and communication of results: Kevin Parker,
Julie Harlan, Hyacinth Billings, Valerie Schwartz, Carol
Rosen, Frank Dexter Brown, and Mary Houser.

Special thanks to: Kate Sebastian (University of
Maryland) for assistance with map design, Rick Bunch
and Walt Reid for consultations on color blindness, Vic
Klemas (University of Delaware) for providing data on
river sediment plumes used to calibrate the watershed
model, and Siobhan Murray for assistance implementing
the watershed model.



Coral reefs, which are among the most biologically
diverse ecosystems on the planet, are also some of
the most ancient. They first appeared in the Mesozoic
era some 225 million years ago and some living coral
reefs may be as much as 2.5 million years old.
Outstanding examples of our biological and natural
heritage, coral reefs are an important asset to local
communities-serving as a source of seafood, provid-
ing materials for new medicines, generating income
from tourism, and buffering coastal cities and settle-
ments from storm damage. Yet, in just a few decades,
human activities have devastated many of these bio-
logically rich, ancient ecosystems. In the next two or
three decades, more are destined for destruction.

Until recently, almost nothing was known about the
extent and condition of coral reefs. Unlike the change
in rainforests, that in coral reefs is difficult to assess
from satellites, and information on their status has
been scattered, anecdotal, and relatively inaccessible.
The state of knowledge began to improve in 1988,
when the World Conservation Monitoring Centre
(WCMC) completed work on a three-volume collection
of preliminary reports on coral reef problems in 108
nations, which was published by the United Nations
Environment Programme and the World Conservation
Union. In 1993, ReefBase, a global database on coral
reefs, was established by the International Center for
Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM), and
WCMC. This resulted in the first global map depicting
the location of shallow reefs around the world, pub-
lished by WCMC in 1996. Eighty nations now partici-
pate in a Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, to
assess the health of reef ecosystems. This network and
other efforts will provide a dearer picture of the impact
of human activities on coral reefs. However, it will take
years to assemble a comprehensive picture of the status
of reefs based on field research.

Reefs at Risk: A Map-based Indicator of Threats to the
World's Coral Reefs provides the first map-based global
analysis of the condition of coral reefs. As such, it
marks a significant advance in understanding the con-
dition of coral reefs and should help stimulate further
data gathering that will improve subsequent reporting.
This study draws on 14 global datasets that are indica-

tors of development pressure, information on 800
ReefBase sites that are known to be degraded, plus sci-
entific expertise-to model areas where existing human
pressures indicate that reefs are threatened by sedimen-
tation, pollution, overfishing, and other factors.

The analysis offers a stark warning: the pressure of
human activities poses grave danger to reefs in most of
the world's oceans, and irreparable damage is occur-
ring rapidly. The exceptions are places still isolated
from intense human pressures and those few places
that have implemented effective measures to protect
reefs. That is the key. Action is needed, and action is
possible to protect these treasuries of ocean wealth.

Many of the protective measures needed to ensure
the health of these ecosystems are "win-win" options
for both reefs and people. For example, creating
marine parks and sanctuaries may enrich local com-
munities by attracting tourists and may benefit near-
by fisheries by protecting breeding stock of target
species. Eliminating perverse and often costly subsi-
dies to fisheries and agriculture, for example, may
reduce overfishing, sedimentation, and pollution of
reefs, and building sewage treatment facilities within
coastal communities may provide both environmen-
tal and health benefits.

We deeply appreciate support for this project from
the United Nations Environment Programme, the
Swedish International Development Cooperation
Agency, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation,
the Bay Foundation, the Henry Foundation, and the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

4-- -
Mark Collins
Chief Executive

Meryl J. Williams
Director General

Jonathan Lash
World Resources Institute



This report presents the first-ever detailed, map-based
assessment of potential threats to coral reef ecosys-
tems around the world. "Reefs at Risk" draws on 14
data sets (induding maps of land cover, ports, settle-
ments, and shipping lanes), information on 800 sites
known to be degraded by people, and scientific
expertise to model areas where reef degradation is
predicted to occur, given existing human pressures
on these areas. Results are an indicator of potential
threat (risk), not a measure of actual condition. In
some places, particularly where good management is
practiced, reefs may be at risk but remain relatively
healthy. In others, this indicator underestimates the
degree to which reefs are threatened and degraded.
Our results indicate that:

* Fifty-eight percent of the world's reefs are poten-
tially threatened by human activity-ranging
from coastal development and destructive fishing
practices to overexploitation of resources, marine
pollution, and runoff from inland deforestation
and farming.

* Coral reefs of Southeast Asia, the most species-
rich on earth, are the most threatened of any
region. More than 80 percent are at risk (under
medium and high potential threat), and over half
are at high risk, primarily from coastal develop-
ment and fishing-related pressures.

* Overexploitation and coastal development pose
the greatest potential threat of the four risk cate-
gories considered in this study. Each, individually,
affects a third of all reefs.

* The Pacific, which houses more reef area than any
other region, is also the least threatened. About
60 percent of reefs here are at low risk.

* Outside of the Pacific, 70 percent of all reefs are
at risk.

* At least 11 percent of the world's coral reefs con-
tain high levels of reef fish biodiversity and are
under high threat from human activities. These
"hot spot" areas include almost all Philippine

reefs, and coral communities off the coasts of
Indonesia, Tanzania, the Comoros, and the Lesser
Antilles in the Caribbean.

* Almost half a billion people-8 percent of the
total global population-live within 100 kilome-
ters of a coral reef.

* Globally, more than 400 marine parks, sanctuar-
ies, and reserves (marine protected areas) contain
coral reefs. Most of these sites are very small-
more than 150 are under one square kilometer in

* At least 40 countries lack any marine protected
areas for conserving their coral reef systems.



Although they occupy less than one quarter of 1
percent of the marine environment, coral reefs are
home to more than a quarter of all known marine
fish species.' These habitats have been called the
rainforests of the marine world: highly productive,
rich in species, and-because they predominate in
many regions noted for extreme poverty and high
population growth rates-particularly vulnerable
to future degradation.

Seventy percent of the planet is covered by oceans,
yet humans have barely begun to catalog the biota
found within marine environments. Over recent
decades, scientists, policy-makers, and the public
have become increasingly aware of the magnitude
of destruction of terrestrial habitats, especially the
biologically rich tropical rainforests, and the need
to stem the onslaught of human pressures on
remaining natural places. Knowledge has proved key
to raising awareness: by at least roughly gauging-
through such figures as deforestation rates and esti-
mates of species loss-the extent and magnitude of
human impact on terrestrial biodiversity, scientists
have demonstrated what is at stake should poorly
planned development continue unchecked.

Midway through the 1998 "Year of the Ocean"
and following the 1997 "Year of the Reef"-two
campaigns aimed at raising global awareness of
the importance of our marine heritage-we still
lack comprehensive estimates regarding the status
of, and the magnitude of threats to, these aquatic
ecosystems. In terms of addressing knowledge gaps,
coral reefs are a priority because of their extraordinar-
ily high biological richness and the multitude
of products and ecosystem services they provide
to human beings.

This report presents a detailed, map-based analysis of
threats to (and pressures on) the world's coral reefs.
Until now the only information on the status of
coral reefs worldwide was an estimate, first published
in 1993, which indicated that 10 percent of the
world's reefs were dead, and that 30 percent
were likely to die within 10 to 20 years.2 These fig-
ures, which have since been widely quoted, were

based on guesswork by a number of scientists and on
anecdotal evidence. Reefs at Risk-the first systematic
and data-driven global assessment of these habitats-
confirms that coral reefs are seriously threatened in
most parts of the world. The maps in this report
provide a detailed picture of where reefs are
in jeopardy, identify reefs at risk that are of high
biodiversity value, and show where reefs lack protec-
tion through parks, sanctuaries, and reserves.

Our results serve as an indicator of the threats to these
ecosystems, not as an actual measure of degradation.
Scientists do not know the actual condition of the
vast majority of the world's reefs. In the Pacific, for
example, 90 percent of the coral reefs have never
been assessed.3 In the absence of complete informa-
tion on reef condition, we have drawn together avail-
able global maps and other data sets that measure
human activity and, using a geographic information
system and more than 800 mapped ReefBase sites*
known to be degraded by humans, have modeled
areas where one might predict degradation to occur,
given existing anthropogenic pressures on the land-
and seascape. Reefs at Risk draws on 14 distinct data
sets and the input of coral reef experts and scientists
from around the world.

*ReefBase-a database produced by the International Center for
Living Aquatic Resources Management-is the most comprehen-
sive source of global information available on coral reefs.



What Is at Stake?

oral reefs are among the most valuable ecosystems on earth because of their
immense biological wealth and the economic and environmental services they
provide to millions of people. According to one estimate, reef habitats provide
humans with living resources (such as fish) and services (such as tourism returns and
coastal protection) worth about $375 billion each year.4

Coral reefs are important for the following reasons:

Biodiversity: Coral reefs are among the most biologi-
cally rich ecosystems on earth. About 4,000 spedes of
fish and 800 species of reef-building corals have been
described to date.5 However, experts have barely begun
to catalog the total number of species found within

these habitats. One prominent scientist, Marjorie
Reaka-Kudla, estimates there may be between one and
nine million species associated with coral reefs.* Using
this figure and rough estimates of human-caused reef
degradation, Dr. Reaka-Kudla projected that over a mil-
lion of these species may face extinction within the
coming four decades.6


Coral reefs resemble tropical rainforests in two ways: both thrive
under nutrient-poorconditions (where nutrients are largely tied
up in living matter), yet support rich communities through incred-
ibly efficient recycling processes. Additionally, both exhibit very
high levels of species diversity. Coral reefs and other marine
ecosystems, however, contain more varied life forms than do land
habitats. All but one of the world's 33 phyla (major kinds of
organisms) are found in marine environments-15 exclusively so.7
Coral reefs are noted for some of the highest levels of total
(gross) productivity on earth. Coral polyps-the thin living
layer covering reef structures-provide much of the energy
that fuels these communities. These tiny animals contain
algae, which convert sunlight to fuel, deriving nutrients from
polyp wastes in the process. Reef-building corals and certain
calcareous algae (which may constitute more than half of a
reef's stony substance) lay down a foundation of calcium car-
bonate. Over generations this accumulation results in often
massive structures, providing homes and hiding places for
countless other creatures. Coral reefs, then, are the net result
of thousands of years of growth. As such, many are among the
planet's oldest living communities.
In general, coral reefs are found in shallow waters,
between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer.

Reef-associated plants and animals provide people with:

Seafood: Much of the world's poor, most of whom are
located within the coastal zones of developing regions,
depend directly on reef species for their protein needs.
Globally, one-fifth of all animal protein consumed by
humans comes from marine environments-an annual
catch valued at $50 billion to $100 billion.12 In devel-
oping countries, coral reefs contribute about one-quar-
ter of the total fish catch, providing food, according to
one estimate, for one billion people in Asia alone.3 14 If
properly managed, reefs can yield, on average, 15 tons
of fish and other seafood per square kilometer per year.
However, in many areas of the world, fishers are deplet-
ing this resource through overexploitation and destruc-
tive fishing practices. According to a World Bank esti-
mate, Indonesia forfeits more than $10 million a year

* Reaka-Kudla's figures may be high. Scientists who helped prepare
the Global Biodiversity Assessment (United Nations Environment
Programme, 1992) estimated that there are perhaps 14 million
species altogether, counting those within land and aquatic environ-
ments. Others suggest even greater diversity is possible, when micro-
bial life is fully considered.

Their total extent is unknown, although it probably exceeds
600,000 square kilometers.8The World Conservation
Monitoring Centre recently mapped the global distribution
of shallow reefs (the base maps for this study). Using these
data, Mark Spalding and A. M. Grenfell estimated the total
global area of near-surface reefs (these being the most
diverse, productive and economically important reefs) to
be some 255,000 square kilometers.9 Coral reefs repre-
sent less than 0.2 percent of the total area of oceans (and
cover an area equivalent to 4 percent of the world's crop-
land area).
Levels of species diversity vary within these ecosystems,
depending on location. The most species-rich reefs are found
in a swath extending through Southeast Asia to the Great
Barrier Reef, off northeastern Australia. More than 700
species of corals alone are found in this region. Within the
Great Barrier Reef, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 species
of mollusks have been counted. Reefs outside this region are
important for the distinct populations and species they con-
tain. For example, although fewer types of corals are found in
the Red Sea, this basin contains more endemics (species
found nowhere else) than other portions of the Eastern
Indian Ocean.10'11

in lost productivity, coastal protection, and other bene-
fits through large-scale poison fishing alone. Through
careful management, these reefs could support a
$320 million industry, employing 10,000 Indonesian

New medicines: In recent years, human bacterial infec-
tions have become increasingly resistant to existing
antibiotics. Scientists are turning to the oceans in the
search for new cures for these and other diseases. Coral
reef spedes offer particular promise because of the
array of chemicals produced by many of these organ-
isms for self-protection. This potential has only barely
been explored. Corals are already being used for bone
grafts, and chemicals found within several species
appear useful for treating viruses. Chemicals within
reef-associated spedes may offer new treatments for
leukemia, skin cancer, and other tumors.'1 According to
one estimate, one-half of all new cancer drug research
now focuses on marine organisms.'7 '

Other products: Reef ecosystems yield a host of other
economic goods, ranging from corals and shells made


into jewelry and tourism curios to live fish and corals
used in aquariums, to sand and limestone used by the
construction industry. However, such extractive activi-
ties are usually damaging to these habitats.

Coral reefs offer a wide range of environmental ser-
vices, some of which are difficult to quantify, but are of
enormous importance to nearby inhabitants. These ser-
vices include:

Recreational value: The tourism industry is one of the
fastest growing sectors of the global economy. Coral
reefs are a major draw for snorkelers, scuba divers,
recreational fishers, and those seeking vacations in the Complex chemistry-the clownfish is immune to and protected by the
sun (some of the finest beaches are maintained stinging tentacles of the sea anemones.
through the natural erosion of nearby reefs). More than
100 countries stand to benefit from the recreational visitors annually to their beaches and reefs, derive, on
value provided by their reefs. Florida's reefs pump average, half of their gross national product from the
$1.6 billion into the economy each year from tourism tourism industry, valued at $8.9 billion in 1990.20
alone.19 Caribbean countries, which attract millions of
Coastal protection: Coral reefs buffer adjacent shore-
lines from wave action and the impact of storms. The
benefits from this protection are widespread, and range
from maintenance of highly productive mangrove fish-
eries and wetlands to supporting local economies built
around ports and harbors, where, as is often the case in
the tropics, these are sheltered by nearby reefs.

Globally, we estimate almost half a billion people live
within 100 kilometers of a coral reef, benefiting from
the production and protection these ecosystems pro-
vide (see Figure 1). A recent study found that the costs
of destroying just one kilometer of reef range from
about $137,000 to almost $1.2 million over a 25-year
period, when fishery, tourism, and protection values
alone are considered.21

Number of People Within 100 km. of a Coral Reef


,' r I Atlantic

r A Middle East


Southeast Asia


Diving and snorkeling allow up-close viewing of some of the wonders 50 100 150 200 250
of the undersea world. Millions



oral reefs around the world are
threatened by an onslaught of
human activities. These include:

Effects of coastal development: The growth of
coastal cities and towns generates a range of threats to
nearby coral reefs. Where space is limited, airports
and other construction projects are built upon reef
communities. Dredging of harbors and shipping
channels and the dumping of spoils result in the out-
right destruction of these habitats. In many areas,
coral ecosystems are mined for construction materi-
als-sand and limestone, which is made into
cement-for new buildings.
The indirect effects of development are the most
damaging. Reef-building corals-specifically the algae
(zooxanthellae) within their coral polyps, which gener-
ate energy through photosynthesis-require sunlit



waters to survive. Algal blooms resulting from excess
nutrients that come from sewage releases and other
sources block sunlight, reducing coral growth.
Shoreline construction and modification disturbs sedi-
ments, which smother corals. Nutrient-rich runoff pro-
motes the growth of bottom-dwelling algal competitors
and interferes with coral reproduction. Other threats
include hot-water discharges from power plants, and
mine runoff and industrial toxic waste effluents, which
poison reef communities.22 23 24
Even tourism, where it is unregulated, can pose a
threat. Swimmers and divers in the Gulf of Aqaba
(bounded by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt),
for example, have destroyed corals through trampling,
while boat anchors create further damage to some
areas.25 In many other places, hotels and resorts dis-
charge sewage directly into the ocean, polluting reef
waters and promoting algal growth. Demand for food
fish and tourism curios results in overfishing of key
reef species.


Overexploitation and destructive fishing practices:
Although measured together in the Reefs at Risk indica-
tor, overexploitation and destructive fishing can be sep-
arated into two types of threats.
Overexploitation affects the vast majority of the
world's reefs. (See box "Oi. f,',li of Target Species. ") At
a minimum, overfishing results in shifts in fish size,
abundance, and species composition within reef com-
munities. Evidence suggests that removal of key herbi-
vore and predator species may ultimately affect large-
scale ecosystem changes. For example, removal of trig-
gerfish has been linked with explosions in burrowing
urchin populations, their prey, who subsequently accel-
erate reef erosion through feeding activities.
In the Caribbean, decades of overfishing has led, in
many places, to very low levels of grazing fish species.
Because of this, herbivorous sea urchins (a nonburrow-
ing species) have played an increasingly important role
in keeping down algal growth. In the early 1980s, huge
numbers of these urchins succumbed to disease.
Without grazing fish or urchin populations, and
spurred on in many areas by organic pollution, algae
quickly dominated the reefs, inhibiting coral settlement
and sometimes overgrowing living corals. In areas such

Pollution and erosion from land-clearing activities far inland
contribute to reef sedimentation.

as Jamaica, hurricanes further compounded the dam-
age, reducing coral to rubble. Formerly thriving reefs
were replaced by low-diversity and low-productivity
algal systems. Some scientists claim this is a harbinger
of events to come, as reefs around the world continue
to be overfished. Others argue that these major ecosys-
tem effects may be reversible in the short term, if
degradation has not gone too far.",,26 '
Destructive fishing: Blast fishing; fishing with cyanide
and other poisonous chemicals; muro-ami netting
(pounding reefs with weighted bags to scare fish out of
crevices); and in deeper waters, trawling directly dam-
age corals. Because these methods are generally nonse-
lective, large numbers of other species, along with
undersized target species, may be swept up in nets or
killed by poisons or explosives in the process. (See box
"Cyanide Fishing. ") As not all fishing methods are
destructive, this is less of a widespread threat than over-
Impact from inland pollution and erosion: Sediment,
pesticides, and pollution from human activities inland
Scan damage coral reefs when transported by rivers into
The live fish trade is leaving many reefs devoid of showcase species. coastal waters. These result in the smothering of corals,


reduced light levels (affecting growth), and
overnutrification of reef communities.
Pollution is a particular threat to coral reefs
near the mouths of small and medium-
sized watersheds, as the high volume of
freshwater flow and sediments carried by
major rivers naturally inhibits coral growth.
Land clearing can expand the extent of this
no-growth zone. Watersheds cleared of their
forests and other vegetation cover are
vulnerable to erosion and flooding. During
high water periods, silt and pollutants with-
in these basins are carried far beyond the
normal "plume," or the area where coral
reef growth would normally be limited by
river discharges, had they been intact.o3 31

Marine-based pollution: In comparison to
the other stresses, oil spills and the deliberate
discharge of oily ballast water by passing

Many reef species, including giant clams, sea cucumbers,
sharks, lobsters, large groupers, snappers, and wrasses, are
now fetching high prices both on domestic markets and inter-
nationally. In order to capture these "target species," commer-
cial fisheries operations are moving further and further afield,
and now regularly visit even the most remote reefs in the
world. In many areas such harvesting is clearly unsustainable.
Fishers sweep reefs of their valuable species and then
move on, eliminating entire populations within the areas they
leave behind. Two examples from the Philippines illustrate this
threat. During the 1960s and 1970s, several giant clam
species became locally extinct due to overharvest for food
and for their large shells, which are popular as decorations,
sinks, and bird baths. As recently as 1987, the sea urchin
Tripneustes gratilla was found in dense populations across a
24-square-kilometer sea grass bed on a reef flat in Bolinao.
Exploitation rates increased suddenly with the appearance of
a trader from China and by 1995 the sea urchin was believed
to have become locally extinct.32
There are increasing reports of buyers for specialty
markets appearing in reef areas and overfishing species to
local extinction. Sea urchin and sea cucumber have
reportedly disappeared from certain reefs in the
Galapagos and the western Caribbean. Concerns about
the overexploitation of sea horses for Chinese medicine
and the aquarium trade have prompted the initiation of
successful projects in the Philippines to educate villagers

Destructive fishing practices, such as the use of cyanide, and overfishing pose the
greatest threats to the integrity of coral reefs.

to properly manage the wild stocks and to grow sea horses
for controlled export.
A very obvious change to many of the world's reefs is the
lack of large, predatory fish. A long-standing symbol of coral
reefs, the large grouper is becoming a rarity. Much of the
problem is related to the ease with which these often very
sociable fish can be shot with spear guns. Rampant blast fish-
ing has also contributed to their demise. The capture of sharks
for sharkfin soup and other products has made sharks rare on
many reefs, especially in the Southeast Asian region. Of par-
ticular importance is the loss of large reef fish in connection
with the live fish trade supplying Chinese restaurants. This
trade has led to widespread reductions of populations of
groupers, humphead wrasses, and others.33
Experts contributing to the Reefsat Riskstudy concluded,
during a 1997 mapping workshop held in Manila, that target
species fishing now occurs on most of the world's reefs. This
fact was confirmed during the recent Reef Check volunteer
survey covering hundreds of reefs around the world, which
showed that even some of the most isolated reefs on the
planet are affected. Because this activity is so widespread and
difficult to document, the threat of target species overfishing
is underrepresented in the Reefs at Risk indicator. Although,
to date, few marine species are known to have become com-
pletely extinct, the important message is that because of the
pervasive nature of this threat, very few reefs can truly be con-
sidered pristine.


Coral bleaching occurs rapidly

MAP 1.

LocaUdio oR
Coral BIachlhg
by Ya

r When corals undergo certain kinds of stress, much of the
zooxanthellae-the symbiotic algae that provide coral polyps
with nutrients-are expelled from the coral tissue. Ultimately,
weakened corals may die. Bleaching is a frequent symptom of
pollution-induced stress, as well as a response to natural fac-
tors such as changes in water temperature, salinity levels, and
possibly ultraviolet light.4
During the El Nino of 1982-83, large areas of coral reef
around the world were severely damaged by high water tem-
peratures, which resulted in coral bleaching. Scientific studies
have linked bleaching events to temporary "hot spots," local
areas of unusually high temperatures caused by changes in
atmospheric circulation during the El Niho oceanographic
= events. (Map provides a sense of the wide incidence of coral
reef bleaching.)The effects of the severe El Nino that started
in 1997 have yet to be documented.3"6

in response to a wide range of

Coral Bleaching Has Been Observed Worldwide



188 1978
1979 -1986
1967- 199

SmucFt RPBa (1097) IamnUa Catfer rLMng
Aquatic MaUoM MIamrt (1CLARM)

ships pose an unknown, but probably less significant,
threat to coral reefs. Studies on the impact of some 8-9
million barrels of oil discharged into the Arabian Gulf
during the Iran-Iraq and Gulf Wars found that spills
appeared to be related to short-term declines in many fish

and other species. In 1986, a major spill off the mouth of
the Panama Canal was linked by scientists to significant
losses of coral diversity and cover in heavily affected areas.
In the longer term, oil spills may leave reef communities
more vulnerable to other types of disturbances." 3 39


In many cases it is difficult to pinpoint the exact
causes of coral reef declines now occurring around the
world. Scientists believe that degradation frequently
occurs through the interaction of a combination of
human-caused factors, which then leaves reef commu-
nities less resistant to periodic natural disturbances.
Disease, temperature extremes, pest outbreaks, tropical
cyclones, and other natural events periodically devas-
tate corals, with resulting ecosystem-wide repercus-
sions. However, healthy reefs are resilient, and will
recover with time. The impact of multiple stressors,
both natural and human caused, can have a multiplica-
tive effect on reef ecosystems. Evidence, much of it
anecdotal, suggests that human-damaged reefs may be
more vulnerable to some types of natural disturbances
and take longer to recover.40 For example, some experts
believe pollution contributed to the recent die-offs of
Florida Key reefs in the United States from white pox
Even where they are not directly affected by
human activity, coral reefs may be threatened by the

The use of cyanide to stun and capture live coral reef fish
began in the 1960s in the Philippines to supply the growing
market for aquarium fish in Europe and North America, a
market now worth more than $200 million a year. Since the
late 1970s, the poison has also been used to capture larger
live reef fish (primarily grouper species) for sale to specialty
restaurants in Hong Kong and other Asian cities with large
Chinese populations. Selected and plucked live from a restau-
rant tank, some species can fetch up to $300 per plate, and
are an essential status symbol for major celebrations and busi-
ness occasions. As the East Asian economy boomed over the
past several decades, live reef food fish became a business
worth some $1 billion annually.
Despite the fact that cyanide fishing is nominally illegal in vir-
tually all Indo-Pacific countries, the high premium paid for live
reef fish, weak enforcement capacities, and frequent corruption
have spread the use of the poison across the entire region-
home to the vast majority of the planet's coral reefs. Since the
1960s, more than one million kilograms of cyanide has been
squirted onto Philippine reefs, and the vast Indonesian archipel-
ago now faces an even greater cyanide problem. As stocks in
one country are depleted, the trade moves on to new frontiers,

degradation of nearby mangroves, seagrass beds,
and other associated habitats, which serve as nurs-
eries for many reef species. In addition, mangroves
play an important role in filtering out sediments
washed into coastal areas from upstream runoff.
In many parts of the world, mangroves are being
hacked away for fuel wood, creation of aqua-
ulture ponds, and to make room for coastal
development.42 43
One other long-term threat is global climate
change. Current models predict that climate change
will elevate sea surface temperatures in many places,
cause sea levels to rise, and result in greater frequency
and intensity of storms. Although regional and local
patterns in these changes are harder to model, the
effects on coral reefs are likely to include greater physi-
cal damage by storms and more frequent instances of
coral bleaching. (See box "Coral Reef Bleaching.") This
increase in "natural" stress levels will leave coral reefs
in many parts of the world more vulnerable to human

and cyanide fishing is now confirmed or suspected in countries
stretching from the central Pacific to the shores of East Africa.
Sadly, the most pristine reefs, farfrom the usual threats of sedi-
mentation, coral mining, and coastal development, are the pri-
mary target for cyanide fishing operations.
Systematic scientific testing of the impact of cyanide on
reefs is scanty, but tests show that cyanide kills corals, and its
toxic effects on fish are well known. Anecdotal evidence of
the poison's lethal effects on the reef comes from countless
scuba-diving operators, field researchers, and cyanide fisher-
men themselves. The process of cyanide fishing itself indis-
putably wreaks havoc on coral reefs. The divers crush cyanide
tablets into plastic squirt bottles of sea water and puff the solu-
tion at fish on coral heads. The fish often flee into crevices,
obliging the divers to pry and hammer the reefs apart to col-
lect their stunned prey. Cyanide fishing also poses human
health risks: to fishermen, through accidental exposure to the
poison and careless use of often shoddy compressed-air
diving gear by untrained divers.
Cyanide fishing can be attacked, as experience shows in the
Philippines, the only country so far to take concrete action
against the problem. That country's Cyanide Fishing Reform

(continued on page 16)


Destructive Fishing is Widespread in Southeast Asia

NfA: Jress AP11d -e Ihrensa d by d-pbtw fiuhlig rgo ar ss boMd qpon
a 202biciuwft rad am rom bw aa= = ofdyrane or o fishing
as fim in FlfRfa (ICARM. 1997) &M *ereU nWd bmud upoe- t opinion
Gtrod 0 du bsmo-dy RudE Is atk FM oflahop held In Seou0-w W7 In LWAL

Program, a unique partnership between the government and
the International Marinelife Alliance (IMA), a local non-gov-
ernmental organization, has trained thousands of fishermen to
use alternatives to cyanide such as fine-mesh barrier nets
draped over a reef section to catch aquarium-sized fish and
hook-and-line techniques to catch larger fish forthe restaurant
trade. The government has stepped up enforcement of anti-
cyanide fishing laws by establishing a network of cyanide detec-
tion laboratories, operated by IMA, that randomly sample fish
exports at shipment points throughout the country and monitor
all aspects of the trade. New regulations are slated to make
testing a requirement for all live fish exports and to tighten con-
trols on import and distribution of cyanide. A public awareness
campaign in the media and public schools is helping to educate
Filipinos about the value of coral reefs and the threats posed by
cyanide and other destructive fishing practices. Cyanide fishing

has not ceased in the Philippines, but it has certainly been
reduced as a result of these efforts.
Currently, IMA, the World Resources Institute, and other
partners are implementing the only on-the-ground program in
Indonesia to train cyanide fishermen in alternative capture
techniques, and are collaborating in the Indo-Pacific
Destructive Fishing Reform Program to assist governments in
at least half a dozen countries in Southeast Asia and the Pacific
to combat this poison tide sweeping the planet's largest and
most diverse expanse of coral reefs.

Adaptedfrm Cmhares VtorBarbrand Vaughan RPravt
Sullied Seas StrategiesforCombating Cyanide Fishing in
Southeast Asia and Beyond (Washington D.C- WorldResources
Institute andintemaonlalrinelifeAlliance, 1997)


MAP 2.

An=a Under HI07
E Thfastrarn
Deetruchve FRohing

I .




eefs at Risk" is an indicator: it flags problem areas around the world
where, in the absence of good management, coral reef degradation might
be expected, or predicted to occur shortly, given ongoing levels of human
activity. Such degradation includes major changes in the species composition, relative species
abundance, and/or the productivity of coral reef communities, attributable to human distur-
bance. As noted above, this indicator measures potential risk associated with human activity,
not actual reef condition.

Our analysis covers potential threats from (1) coastal
development, (2) overexploitation and destructive fish-
ing practices, (3) the impact of inland pollution and
erosion, and (4) marine pollution. This assessment
does not include likely future threats posed by popula-
tion growth or climate change, nor does it consider
threats resulting from coral diseases, bleaching, and
other factors considered largely natural in origin.
Our results are based on a series of distance relation-
ships correlating mapped locations of human activity
such as ports and towns, oil wells, coastal mining activi-
ties, and shipping lanes ("component indicators"), with
predicted risk zones of likely environmental degrada-
tion. Detailed subnational statistics on population den-
sity, size of urban areas, and land cover type were also
incorporated into the analysis. In addition, we used
data on rainfall and topography to help estimate poten-
tial runoff within watersheds, from inland deforestation
(and other land clearing), and from agriculture.

Distance rules defining threat zones were established
for each component indicator using information on the
known locations of more than 800 reef sites docu-
mented as degraded by human activity by one of the
four factors (for example, coastal development) consid-
ered in this analysis. Minimum distances were estab-
lished through expert review and input, and by deter-
mining the most conservative set of rules that, when
taken in aggregation for any one of the four threat cate-
gories, assured that we encompassed at least two-thirds
of all known degraded sites affected by activities related
to that category. Tables 1 and 2 present the component
indicators used and the decision rules established to
grade any one reef as under "low," "medium," or "high"
threat. (A more detailed description of the implementa-
tion of the Reefs at Risk Indicator can be found in the
Technical Notes at the end of this publication.)
Draft risk maps were revised and vetted at a global
workshop attended by coral reef experts from around the



Component Indicator Qualifier High Medium
Cities population over 5 million within 30 km 30-60 km
Cities population over million within 20 km 20-40 km
Cities population over100,000, with
little sewage treatment within 10 km 10-25 km
Cities population over100,000, with
moderate sewage treatment within 10 km
Settlements any size within 8 km
Airports and military bases military and civilian airports within 10 km
Mines any type within 10 km
Tourist resorts including diving facilities within 8 km


Component Indicator Qualifier High Medium
Ports large size within 20 km within 50 km
Ports medium size within 10 km within 30 km
Ports small size within 10km
Oil tanks and wells any size within 4 km within 10 km
"Shipping threat areas" known major shipping
routes with areas of relatively
narrow passage -defined zone


Component Indicator Qualifier High Medium
Population density coastal population density within 20 km
exceeds 100 persons
persq. km.
Population density coastal population density -within 20 km
exceeds 20 persons
persq. km.
Destructive fishing expert-defined areas where
blast or cyanide fishing occur within 20 km


Component Indicator Qualifier High Medium
Modeled relative erosion based on the relative slope, scaled to modeled river flow scaled to modeled river flow
potential (REP) land cover class, and
precipitation in an area

Table 1 defines zones for high and medium threat only. Areas not
defined as under high or medium threat default to low threat.

Within the coastal development threat factor, areas classified as
being under medium threat from any individual component that
were also identified as an embayment or lagoon were reclassifed to
high threat to reflect the elevated threat to reefs in enclosed waters.

Within the overexploitation threat factor, only countries where the
per capital gross national product is less than $10,000 per year or the
per capital fish consumption is greater than 50 kilograms per person
per year were included.

Further description of the methodology can be found in the
Technical Notes at the back of this publication.


world. At that workshop, scientists also mapped areas
under high threat from destructive fishing practices, and
areas of intense shipping within narrow passages or
"shipping threat areas"-two additional data sets
incorporated into this analysis. Final draft maps
underwent a second series of review by these and
other experts. (Experts who helped us with the map-
ping or otherwise contributed to this study are listed
in the acknowledgments.)
Overall, the Reefs at Risk indicator accurately classi-
fies over 80 percent of sites known to be degraded by
humans as "at risk."* In some cases, where we know
the condition of reefs, those mapped as at risk never-
theless remain relatively healthy due to good planning
and management by local governments and people, or
because currents, topography, and other factors render
these reefs less sensitive to the impact of human acti-
vity. In other cases, a review of the literature and expert
opinion show that degradation is actually worse than
our indicator suggests. (Experts' comments on the final
Reefs at Risk Indicator results can be found in the
Technical Notes.)
Finally, it is important to note that reefs classified as
being at low risk are not necessarily healthy: these sites

* We compared Reefs at Risk results with 800 sites documented with-
in ICLARM's ReefBase (version 2) database as having been degraded
by human activity. This analysis showed that 80 percent of the time,
our results accurately classified these areas as "at risk" (under medi-
um or high threat).

Data reflecting coral reef locations were initially classified by indi-
vidual threat factors and finally by the combined (integrated)
results for all four threat factors as follows:
Reefs classified as high threat in at least one of the threat factors
are assigned High Threat overall;
Reefs classified as medium threat in at least one threat factor are
assigned Medium Threat overall; and
Reefs classified as low threat in all four threat factors are assigned
Low Threat overall.

may be affected by pressures not captured by this indi-
cator (overfishing within remote areas, undocumented
by our experts), or by new activities not captured by
our base maps and statistics, many of which are already
out-of-date (for example, development of a new mine
or sedimentation from newly cleared land upstream
from a reef). For these reasons, we have likely under-
reported risk in regions where the availability of recent
high-quality data is poor and in areas, such as portions
of the Pacific, where many reefs are distant from
human settlements. The maps presented here are a
static picture of pressures on reefs: sites at low risk
today may be under heavy pressure, and as a result be
seriously degraded, within the next few years.





ore than a quarter of the world's reefs are at high risk, and just under a third
of these habitats are at moderate risk, from human disturbance. Of the four
broad categories of potential threat to coral reefs evaluated, overexploitation
of marine resources, including destructive fishing practices, and coastal development present
the greatest threat. Globally, 36 percent of all reefs were classified as threatened by overex-
ploitation, 30 percent by coastal development, 22 percent by inland pollution and erosion,
and 12 percent by marine pollution. When these threats are combined, 58 percent of the
world's reefs are at risk (defined as medium and high risk). (See Figures 2 and 3.)

S region, while Figure 5 shows the same information for
several countries. (Definitions for regional groupings
p t f R t h; k M d; d AI D ;,L can be found in the Technical Notes section.)

67,900sq. km



108,400 sq. km Percentage of Global Reefs at Risk by Individual Threat Factors
35% High Threat
30% Medium Threat
1i 15%
79,000 sq. km

These figures are tempered by the relatively low threat
faced by coral reefs in the Pacific-home to more reefs o
than any other part of the world. Forty-one percent of Exploitation DevelCoasent PollutInlan Base tion
reefs in the Pacific are estimated to be at risk. Outside
of this region, 70 percent of all reefs are at risk (almost Note: Figures 2 and 3 are based upon coral reef area totals (equaling
40 percent at high risk). Figure 4 presents a summary 255,000 square kilometers) derived from the World Conservation
of coral reef area and combined threat classification by Monitoring Centre base maps used in this study.


A. Regional Statistics
Reef Area in Square Kilometers Percentages Coastal Population Marine
By Threat Categorya Densityb Protected Areasc
Region Total Low Medium High Low Medium High (pp/sq.km.) Number Area (sq. km.)
Middle East 20,000 7,800 9,200 3,000 39% 46% 15% 24 10 11,845
Caribbean 20,000 7,800 6,400 5,800 39% 32% 29% 63 139 38,914
Atlantic (excl. Caribbean) 3,100 400 1,000 1,700 13% 32% 29% 64 3 368
Indian Ocean 36,100 16,600 10,500 9,000 46% 29% 25% 135 66 15,100
Southeast Asia 68,100 12,300 18,000 37,800 18% 26% 56% 128 57 36,263
Pacific 108,000 63,500 33,900 10,600 59% 31% 10% 98 92 372,809

Global Total 255,300 108,400 79,000 67,900 42% 31% 27% 101 367 475,298

B. Selected Country and Geographic Grouping Statistics
Reef Area in Square Kilometers Percentages Coastal Population Marine
By Threat Categorya Densityb Protected Areasc
Region Total Low Medium High Low Medium High (pp/sq.km.) Number Area (sq. km.)
Australia 48,000 33,700 13,700 600 70% 29% 1% 12 12 374,967
Fiji 10,000 3,300 4,800 1,900 33% 48% 19% 91 1 1
French Polynesia 6,000 4,900 1,100 0 82% 18% 0% 38 1 124
India 6,000 1,400 500 4,100 23% 8% 68% 412 2 288
Indonesia 42,000 7,000 14,000 21,000 17% 33% 50% 93 26 30,405
Lesser Antilles 1,500 0 300 1,200 0% 20% 80% 159 2 253
Maldives 9,000 7,900 1,100 0 88% 12% 0% NA NA NA
Marshall Islands 6,000 5,800 200 0 97% 3% 0% NA 2 163
New Caledonia 6,000 5,000 800 200 83% 13% 3% 6 5 530
Papua New Guinea 12,000 6,000 4,500 1,500 50% 38% 13% 7 8 2,149
Philippines 13,000 50 1,900 11,050 0% 15% 85% 174 12 458
Saudi Arabia 7,000 2,500 4,100 400 36% 59% 6% 15 1 4,500
SolomonIslands 6,000 3,000 2,500 500 50% 42% 8% 8 0 0
US Hawaii 1,200 650 450 100 54% 38% 8% 50 2 1,031

a. Reef Area Estimates by Region and Threat Category(sq. km.) and percentages
Reef area estimates are based on WCMC's dataset Shallow Coral Reefs of the World and Spalding and Grenfell (1997).
Estimates of shallow reef area for Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines are significantly smaller than other published estimates.
b. Average Coastal Population Density (pp/sq.km.)
Statistics are for populated areas within 60 kilometers of the coastline. Population data come from Gridded Population of
the World data set from the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis-Global Demography Project.
Data are unavailable for some small island areas.
c. Marine Protected Areas (Number and Area Estimates)
Marine protected area counts and area estimates are summaries of the WCMC dataset Marine Protected Areas of the World,
and are incomplete for some countries. Area statistics for protected sites are for the entire protected area, which include non-reef
areas and can include substantial land areas.

120,000 I







- -


Caribbean Indian

Southeast Pacific

Most disturbing is the status of reefs in Southeast
Asia-a global hot spot of coral and fish diversity (see
box "Biodiversity and Reefs at Risk"). As with tropical
rainforests in this region, reef ecosystems are under
tremendous threat. More than 80 percent of these
ecosystems are potentially at risk, primarily from
coastal development, overfishing, and destructive fish-
ing practices.
Results from the Reefs at Risk analysis are presented
in Table 3 and in the five regional maps included in
this report. Regional highlights follow.

Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean: About 9 percent of the
world's mapped reefs are found in this region, most of
which are located along the Central American coast and
off the Caribbean islands. Our results indicate that almost
two-thirds of reefs here are at risk (about one-third at high
risk). Sedimentation from upland deforestation, poor agri-
cultural practices, coastal development, pollution, and
overfishing are major threats to many reefs here.45 46 Most
reefs of the Antilles and Lesser Antilles (induding Haiti,
the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Dominica, and
Barbados) are under high potential threat. Virtually all of
the reefs of the Lesser Antilles are at risk. Almost all reefs
of the Florida Keys are at moderate threat, largely from
coastal development, inappropriate agricultural practices,
overfishing of target spedes such as conch and lobster,
and pollution associated with development and farming.
Those of the Bahamas and the Yucatan Peninsula and the
remoter reefs off Belize Honduras, and Nicaragua are
largely at low risk from mapped human activity.

Indian Ocean: Over half of the region's reefs are at
risk. Almost all of the reefs off India and Sri Lanka are
under high potential threat. Destructive fishing prac-

tices, overexploitation, pollution, sedimentation from
land clearings, and coral mining for lime have all been
blamed for the widespread degradation of Sri Lankan
reefs.47 Off East Africa, most documented damage to
coastal habitats occurs near major towns and cities, due
to sewage discharge and overexploitation. Blast fishing
and agricultural runoff also pose significant threats.
Our results indicate that the great majority of reefs of
the Chagos Archipelago and Maldive Islands are under
low potential threat (according to this study, close to
90 percent of reefs in the Maldives are at low risk). All
told, the Indian Ocean accounts for roughly 15 percent
of the world's mapped reefs.

Middle East (Red Sea and Arabian Gulf): Although in
the past most of the region's reefs have been reported to
be in good condition, about 60 percent of these habitats
were assessed as at risk primarily due to coastal develop-
ment, overfishing, and the potential threat of oil spills in
the heavily trafficked Arabian Gulf and southern end of
the Red Sea. Almost two-thirds of Gulf reefs are at risk,
largely because over 30 percent of the world's oil tankers
move through this area each year.49 Industrial pollution
and coastal development are threats in some areas.
Corals in many parts of the Gulf of Aqaba have been
degraded through tourism impact and related develop-
ment. Reefs in the northern Red Sea and the Arabian
Gulf are espe-cially vulnerable to degradation due to
limited water circulation and temperature extremes.
About 8 percent of the world's mapped reefs are found
in the Middle East.

50,000 -
45,000 High
30 Medium
S30,000 Low



'-4*. \ -
r~l ,



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Tropical Americas

Estimatd Thrat
to Coral RAefs

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50 200m
2000 4000m

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10E -


Southeast Asia: Over 80
percent of the reefs in this
region are at risk, and over
half (56 percent) are at
high risk. Most of the coral
reefs of the Philippines,
Sabah, Eastern Sumatra,
Java, and Sulawesi were
assessed at high potential
threat from disturbance.
More than 70 percent of the
region's people live within 3
the coastal zone, putting
heavy pressure on nearby
marine resources.50
Overfishing, destructive
fishing practices, sedimen-
tation, and pollution asso-
ciated with coastal develop-
ment are the biggest threats.51
Southeast Asia contains one-quarter of the world's
mapped reefs. Indonesia and the Philippines account
for a major portion of these habitats. Reefs in both
countries are noted for extraordinarily high levels of
diversity, each containing at least 2,500 species of fish.52
Studies suggest that only 30 percent of reefs off both
countries are in good or excellent condition (as mea-
sured by live coral cover).53 54 Our results, which include
threats from overfishing, indicate that virtually all of
Philippine reefs, and 83 percent of Indonesia's reefs, are
at risk. Because of the reef area they contain, coastal
zone policy and management decisions made by these
two countries will have a major impact on the global
heritage of coral reef diversity for future generations.

Pacific: Reefs here appear to be in the best shape of any
region: almost 60 percent were assessed at low risk. About
40 percent of the world's mapped reefs are found in the
Pacific, many of which are located around remote atolls
and within the Great Barrier Reef tract. Although reef com-
munities in many uninhabited areas remain in good con-
dition, others have been affected by the long-term impacts
of historic nudear testing and other military activities and
by poaching of rare species.55 Several areas, particularly
those near population centers, face significant human
pressures. These indude many of the reef communities
off southeastern Papua New Guinea, the Solomon
Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Hawaii. Almost half of the
Hawaiian and Solomon Island reefs (the latter noted for
their high biodiversity) are potentially threatened. Two-
thirds of the reefs off Fiji are at risk. Overfishing, coastal
development, logging, and agricultural erosion are docu-

mented threats to these ecosystems. Fiji's reefs are an
important tourist draw and, according to a 1992 estimate,
a major source of food for local people generating dose
to $200 million annually in fisheries and tourism
revenues alone56
Seventy percent of Australia's reefs are at low risk.
Although some parts of the inner Great Barrier Reef are
potentially threatened, good management has largely
maintained these as healthy ecosystems (see section
titled "Protecting the Health of Coral Reef Ecosystems").



Pacific Ocean

Eselmted Thr.a
toCoreaRsfs 20N

0 5n0
200O-2000m |
2000 4000m

o 0 _______ 0

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OW 140W


Some threatened reefs stand out as particularly important
from a biodiversity perspective. As part of this analysis, we
worked with collaborators at the University of York in England,
and Ocean Voice International in Canada to integrate data on
reef fish species diversity with our data on potential threats to
coral reefs. This allows for analysis of the likely degree of
threat in areas of high reef fish richness-those having species
counts in the top 20 percent of values found around the world.
As noted below, our results are rudimentary, given the incom-
pleteness of the fish species dataset.
At least 11 percent of the world's reefs qualify as "biodiversity
hot spots": areas of high species richness that are also under
high threat. As Map 3 shows in red, most of these sites are
located in Southeast Asia (almost a quarter of this region's reefs
classify), especially in waters off the Philippines, Indonesia, and
Japan. As a proportion of total reef area, the Caribbean
emerges as another large hot spot: about 18 percent of
Caribbean reefs exhibit high coral reef fish species counts, and
are at high risk. This includes most of the coral communities of
Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the Lesser Antilles (Guadeloupe,
Dominica, Martinique, and other islands).*Additional hot spot
areas were identified off the Comoros, Tanzania, and Fiji.
What does this imply, in terms of priorities for immediate
protection? Some scientists advocate taking a "portfolio
approach" to selecting new sites for protection as parks and
reserves."' They say that planners and managers should pro-
tect important biodiversity sites that are threatened andsites
where human pressure and human disturbance are low-
where it is easierto create and maintain parks and reserves.
About 17 percent of the world's reefs exhibit high coral reef
fish species richness, and are presently classified at low risk
from human activities. More than half of these low-risk, high-
diversity sites (shown in blue on the map)are located in the
central and western Pacific, especially within waters off
Australia and Papua New Guinea. Large tracts of qualifying

reefs occur off the Maldives, Chagos Archipelago, Cuba, the
Bahamas, Belize, and southern Mexico.
It should be noted that there are many ways to define
important biodiversity areas beyond simply looking at total
species count (species richness). These include endemism (the
proportion of species found nowhere else), the number and
percentage of rare species found, and protection of unique
types of coral reef communities (ecosystem representation),
among others. An ideal assessment would examine conserva-
tion importance at both the species level (examining endemics
and total species) and the ecosystem level (examining unique
habitats). This analysis considers only total species count for
one taxonomic group-coral fish species-and not the total
count of all species. In choosing priorities for protection, many
planners also consider nonbiological criteria, such as identify-
ing sites to protect on the basis of economic and social val-
ues.5 One major consideration in identifying conservation pri-
orities is the degree to which sites are already protected as
parks and reserves. Unfortunately, the data and maps used for
this analysis were too coarse to allow detailed examination of
protected area gaps (existing marine protected area data are
also incomplete and/or are not adequately spatially refer-
enced). Map 4 provides an idea of some of the possible gaps in
protection in Southeast Asia. Many areas in the Philippines
and Indonesia have high species diversity, are highly threat-
ened, and are not protected.

*It should be noted that the analysis of areas of high reef fish biodiversity is
biased in favor of coral reef areas that are more intensively surveyed. For
example, the analysis suggests that there are no hot spots in the Middle
East, but, in fact, levels of biodiversity in parts of the Red Sea reach similar
levels to the hot spots in the Caribbean. Because a greater proportion of
species present in the Caribbean were sampled relative to other areas,
these areas achieve relatively high species counts, warranting inclusion in
this analysis. Several other areas likely to have comparable diversity that
were not included are the reefs off the coast of Vietnam and the Spratly


MAP 3.

spuredl a
by Thnsu f C mtg

Di 8amM: Oi n oCad IMf m ipefs d
mm Me hI Ul nsl orf Ydk(UJQ aUd OaOm Gb
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mIp mlat lirstM rtms iMti U W I S t askt
Mto tlrdn b arn do a fl mr ofIts a woid
Rn.n WeM Cncamrb Mghu rre (Cnr (UxC .

Note: This map shows areas of known high
reef fish species diversity (areas in excess of
210 species), classified by estimated threat
to rooks in that area.

MAP 4.

... And Most Areas With High Reef Fish Species Diversity Are Not Protected

SpER mlM I.
by Thr-i Cilkt


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R E E F S AT R I S K 31

Most Aa With High Reef Fish Spee Diversity Are Threatened ....






he following profiles, contributed by some of the experts who helped us with this

assessment, illustrate the types of threats faced by reefs around the world and what

is at stake should these ecosystems continue to be degraded.

Location: Southeastern United States

Description: These reefs extend from Miami to the Dry
Tortugas, near Key West. Outside of those of the
Bahamas and Bermuda, they are the northernmost reefs
found within the western Atlantic. The Florida Keys are
probably home to more marine fish species than any
other coastal region of the mainland United States."9
Reefs here are a major tourism draw-over one million
divers visit this area each year. Commercial and recre-
ational fisheries are an additional and important source
of income for local communities. For example, the spiny
lobster catch generated $10 million in 1980 alone.60
Threats: The coral reefs of the Florida Keys exemplify the
complexity of threats to reef resources. They naturally lie
near the temperature limits for reef building. Strong win-
ter cold fronts have episodically killed Acropora thickets
throughout the Keys. Florida reefs have been repeatedly
stressed in the past 25 years by bleaching events in 1973,
1983, 1987, 1991, and 1997. Disease is an even more
serious problem: two of the most important reef-builder
species (Acropora palmata and A. cervicornis) are now rela-
tively uncommon due to white-band disease, while oth-
ers have proved particularly susceptible to black-band
disease. New coral diseases are being reported each
The two major threats to these reefs are polluted
waters from Florida Bay and anthropogenic nutrients
from storm runoff, discharge from sewage-laden ground-
waters, and from agricultural sources. Even distant
sources are involved: waters from the heavily polluted
Mississippi River periodically reach the Keys while
Saharan dust has been implicated as an origin of nutri-
ents and possibly disease spores particularly during El
Niho years. Finally, direct human activity is damaging

reef resources here. Activities such as boating, fishing,
and diving individually cause minimal damage, but
because of sheer numbers of participants result in chronic
stress. The all too frequent groundings of large vessels
have resulted in loss of significant percentages of indi-
vidual reefs. Aside from boating activities and despite
years of research, it is difficult to lay blame for damage
on specific anthropogenic stresses. However, it is dear
that human activity compounds the natural regional vul-
nerability of Florida's reefs, thereby severely threatening
the future integrity of these ecosystems.

Location: Caribbean Panama

Description: Bahia Las Minas forms part of one of
Panama's most extensive stretches of coral reef and
mangrove along the Caribbean coast. These ecosystems
provide an important source of food fish for local com-
Threats: A major crude oil spill occurred in April 1986
from a ruptured storage tank at a local refinery just east
of the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal. Oil
slicks from the refinery landfill and from mangroves
(whose soils retained oil from the original spill) are still
common there after 10 years. The spill affected a wide
range of reef community spedes. The cover, size, and
diversity of live corals decreased greatly on oiled reefs
(for example, total coral cover defined by 76 percent in
waters three meters deep). The spedes Acropora palmata,
a major Caribbean reef-building coral, was practically
eliminated. Sublethal but long-term consequences for
corals indude decreased growth, reproduction, and
recruitment, which suggest little prospect for rapid recov-
ery. The spill also damaged nearby sea grass and man-
grove communities.62 63 6


Threatened Reefs and Signs of Promise
Reef Locations

* 70

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Ti -P Ma" USA 17 -amoT
72 -Bhdt L. hIu& Pin, TO- i
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T4 -Hkau ILuw TnO-JWuMnn1A*
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To -Rob O Up m 712. -0utn i UGA

Location: Jamaica, Caribbean

Description: The entire island is surrounded by reefs,
although those of the north coast once contained the
most coral cover and are the most diverse. Reefs are an
integral part of the Jamaican economy, supporting fish-
ing, and tourism, the country's most important industry.65
Threats: Virtually all reef communities here have been
affected by human and natural causes. Overfishing in
particular, as well as pollution from sewage disposal,
industry and agricultural runoff, siltation due to poor
land use practices, and tourism-related activities, have
seriously degraded Jamaica's reefs. Storm damage from
hurricanes, coral reef bleaching due to periodic high sea
water temperatures, and, with the define of sea urchins
and other algae grazers, the unchecked algal overgrowth
of corals have compounded the problem. The reefs sur-
rounding Montego Bay are perhaps the most seriously
degraded, even though they are protected, in part, by a
marine park. The original park, established in 1966, was
too small and was completely unmanaged. Although
reestablished and expanded in 1990, with a financial
base and staff that works closely with town authorities,

A swool-,
82 -Arbownr W Repmin
86. 1nd dkq PMI pm
Pus, C~rna
Ba MIrfu FWabrd Pwii Komp
a? 0."w W WaMa i4M 0 An& W@

reefs in the park continue to be affected by poaching,
pollution from the nearby city and airport, and runoff
from inland agricultural activity.

Location: The Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary and the
surrounding reef, located in southwestern Sri Lanka,
Indian Ocean

Description: Hikkaduwa is one of the most densely
developed tourism sites in Sri Lanka and encompasses
the first national marine sanctuary, established in
1979. Coastal tourism is a mainstay of the country's
economy. With 80 percent of all tourism infrastructure
in coastal areas, the industry generates about $200 mil-
lion each year. The tourism economy of Hikkaduwa is
almost entirely dependent on the quality of the beach
and coral reef along its five-kilometer beach front.
Gross annual revenue from about 150 tourism estab-
lishments is more than $30 million.
Threats: The coastal environment is increasingly
degraded from development's impacts. Poor environ-
mental planning, inadequate law enforcement, and
lack of consideration of sociocultural issues are the


MAP 5.


primary underlying causes. Longtime residents of the
area have stated that "entire sections" of the reef have
been destroyed over the last 20 years. The most impor-
tant threat to the area is the unregulated operations of
a large number of glass-bottomed boats. These vessels
hit the corals, anchors are dropped, and tourists stand
and walk on the reefs. Anchoring and dumping of oil
by fishing boats is also a problem. Additional threats
include polluted water from fish holds and waste oil
dumped directly in the sanctuary, and sediments stirred
up by boat traffic. Coral reef mining occurs within a
kilometer of this protected area, and many of the near-
by reefs are devastated. The government and local com-
munity are finally taking steps to limit boating activity,
to require hotels to stop dumping wastewater into the
ocean, and to patrol the reef in order to prevent tram-
pling of corals and illegal fishing.66' 6 68

Location: Coral reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba off Jordan,
Israel, and Egypt plus the reefs of the Egyptian Red Sea

Description: The coral reefs along the Red Sea Riviera are
high-value resources for attracting European (primarily
German and Italian) tourists seeking diving adventures.
They provide habitat for many commercially important
fish that are consumed in local hotels and restaurants.
The extensive fringing reefs also help consolidate desert
shorelines and protect them (and coastal property)
from storms.
Threats: The Red Sea Riviera is a good example of an
area that presently is only partially threatened, but
where the potential exists for large-scale degradation.
Overfishing and physical damage from excessive diving
threaten reefs in an area overlapping Jordan and



Trampling of reefs by tourists is a threat at this Red Sea resort.

Israel-a region where tourism is expected to quadru-
ple by the year 2000.69 In Egypt, where the number of
hotel beds (a measure of tourism demand) is expected
to increase over 1000 percent by the year 2005, the
Environmental Affairs Agency (EAA) has been able to
manage the resort development process along the
south Sinai with a measurable degree of effectiveness
via a network of coastal protectorates. However, off
Hurghada, tourism development proceeded without an
active management system in place and degradation
(coastal sedimentation, physical damage from anchor-
ing and overdiving, and overfishing) is clearly evi-
dent.70 71 In 1997, more than 250 mooring buoys were
installed off Hurghada and EAA assigned rangers to
patrol the Elba Protectorate. EAA is working to expand
its system of marine protected areas to include reefs
located north of Hurghada and stretching to the Sudan
border. The Tourist Development Agency is attempting
to better design new tourist villages to ensure the sus-
tainable use of valuable coral reef resources. Time will
tell whether Red Sea Riviera governments will take the
necessary actions to preserve their coral reefs in the face
of economic needs and rapid development.

Location: Singapore

Description: Most of Singapore's reefs lie off the Southern
Islands. This area is home to at least 197 species of hard
corals.72 The area supports a growing tourism industry, as
well as some subsistence and sport fishing.73
Threats: The Southern Islands reefs lie within the port
limits of the world's busiest harbor, while the islands
themselves support oil refineries, petrochemical indus-
tries, and slop-treatment plants. Thirty
years of massive land reclamation pro-
S"grams compounded with regular dredg-
ing of shipping channels, has resulted
- in the widespread sedimentation of
-_ coral communities, posing the biggest
threat to this area. Underwater visibility
has been reduced from 12 meters in the
1960s to two meters today. The active
growth zone of corals is now confined
to the upper five meters of reef slopes.
The news is not all bad: thanks to care-
ful sewage and industrial treatment
practices, these coral communities still
survive despite their proximity to one
Sof the most densely populated places
ift. on earth.


Location: Fringing reefs on western Luzon
Island in the Philippines

Description: The 200-square-kilometer
complex includes reefs from the munici-
palities of Anda and Bolinao. Of approxi-
mately 50,000 people in Bolinao, only a
few thousand actually fish the reefs, but
the reefs support about 20,000 people
who are either workers in fishery-related
occupations (fish sales, shell craft, etc.) or
are dependent family members.
Threats: As farmlands across the
Philippines have become finely divided
and overutilized, increasing numbers of people have
migrated into reef areas such as Bolinao to join in har-
vesting fish and other reef resources, contributing to
their dramatic decline. Competition for these resources
led to the proliferation of blast and cyanide fishing. In
the late 1980s one could hear an average of 10 blasts
per hour from fishers targeting schools of fish and
clumps of coral. The bottom cover of reef-building
coral diminished from roughly 40 percent to about 15
percent over a period of about 15 years. Target fish
were 10 centimeters in length and less. While fishers of
more pristine reefs in Papua New Guinea are able to
harvest up to 30 kilograms of fish per day, the Bolinao
fishers have had their catches reduced to an average of
about one kilogram per day on reefs that were once
ecologically very similar.
Beginning in 1986, programs were established by
the University of the Philippines and collaborators to
help the Bolinao municipality. Various projects to
introduce small-scale mariculture of seaweed and inver-
tebrates were supplemented by community organizing
activities. Public education and improved law enforce-
ment have led to a reduction in blast fishing. Coral
cover and fish abundances seem to be increasing. In
1997, the municipality approved an integrated coastal
management plan that reflected the concerns of all
major sectors. Marine protected areas are being estab-
lished and fishery regulations are being revised.
However, the reef remains in a critical state. The prolif-
eration of fish pens is causing problems with pollution,
water stagnation, and public access to reef resources.
Incomes in the area remain low, and many resources
on land and sea are seriously overutilized by the dense
human population. Ultimately, the greatest challenges
may be yet to come-the population of Bolinao is
expected to double in the next 30 years.

Location: A large atoll in the eastern South China Sea

Description: Scarborough Reef is noted for high levels
of biodiversity. The populations of organisms on the
reefs of the South China Sea are believed to be linked
through the exchange of the free-swimming life stages
that characterize most reef species. Being highly isolat-
ed, Scarborough Reef may play a particularly crucial
role as an "outpost" in this exchange of genetic materi-
al and in the restocking of overfished fringing reefs in
the Philippines and China.
Threats: Like the Spratly Islands to the southwest,
Scarborough Reef is the subject of ownership disputes.
The reef is claimed by the Philippines, mainland
China, and Taiwan. Fishers from all three areas regu-
larly fish the reef. However, the unclear ownership and
lack of regulation exacerbate competition for the
resources. Fishers stock up on blasting devices and
cyanide to fish the reef in short, destructive trips. The
reef is a major site for shark fishing with gill nets and
for the capture of large fish for the live fish trade using
cyanide. Ships load their holds with coral to sell as dec-
orations for store windows and aquariums.
The U.S. military used the reef for bombing practice
during the 1990 confrontation with Iraq, complicating
matters. Large and unique underwater dunelike struc-
tures of organ-pipe coral tens of meters long were used
as targets. Substantial areas of coral were torn apart by
the explosions. Many of the bombs failed to explode,
littering the lagoon with live ordinance. It is reportedly
common for a fisher to drop a small explosive charge
in a beer bottle, only to set off a massive explosion.
Visitors to the reef over the years have reported increas-
ing levels of degradation from the combination of
abuses to the reef.


Achilles Tangs are one of the many reef fish species found on Johnston Atoll

Location: Java Sea, north of Jakarta, Indonesia

Description: The Seribu Islands reefs cover 108,000
hectares, along a chain of more than 100 small islands.
The area is noted for its abundance of attractive beaches
and coral reefs. In 1995, the islands were declared a
marine national park. Tourism has grown rapidly from
one operator on a single island in 1982 to 11 operators
working out of 18 islands in 1992. There were approxi-
mately 8,000 visitors in 1991. Some islands have long
been inhabited by villagers who depend on reef and
island resources. However, the tourism industry employs
less than 5 percent of the local population.
Threats: Domestic sewage, industrial effluent, and urban
runoff from Jakarta threaten the southernmost portion
of this area. Floating garbage is a problem, depending
on prevailing winds. Ballast water discharges from boats
result in tar being washed up on local beaches. Blast
fishing, although outlawed nationally since 1920, still
occurs as well as heavy ornamental fish collecting and
major subsistence exploitation of marine resources. The
islands are under pressure from developers seeking more
tourism and recreational fadlities to service greater
Jakarta. There is no strategy to promote environmentally
and economically sound expansion of this industry. Boat
anchoring and diving have already damaged coral reefs.
To encourage protection of the area, local residents, few
of whom currently benefit from existing recreational
development, need more economic options and
increased participation in park activities (such as
employment servicing the resorts). Oil and gas explo-
ration, taking place within kilometers of the park, could
pose a potential future threat.

Location: Line Islands, Central Pacific, an
island possession of the United States

Description: Johnston is a small ancient
atoll (80 million years old) and is per-
haps the most isolated reef in the world,
being 800 kilometers southwest of
Hawaii, its nearest island neighbor, and
1,500 kilometers north and east of the
Northern Line Islands and the Phoenix
Islands, respectively. These reefs are
important for biodiversity, serving as a
biological stepping stone between
Hawaii and the island groups to the
S south and west. The 30 species of coral
in the Pacific. have close affinities to the coral biota of
Hawaii, and corals, reef fishes, seabirds,
and green turtles flourish on the reefs and islands of the
atoll. The atoll is a national wildlife refuge, jointly
administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and
the U.S. Department of Defense.
Threats: Beginning about 1960, the United States estab-
lished Johnston as an above-ground atmospheric
nuclear and missile testing range. Massive dredging and
filling destroyed many reefs in a process to expand the
size of main islands and to build an airport, deep draft
port, and entrance channel. Some Thor missile launches
failed, with one scattering plutonium on the island and
nearby reef. Later thousands of drums of Agent Orange,
a defoliant used during the Vietnam War, were shipped
to Johnston where they were stockpiled for years out in
the open. Eventually a floating incnerator ship
destroyed the defoliant, but not before many of the
drums leaked, discharging dioxins and other toxic sub-
stances into the groundwater. In 1970, explosively con-
figured chemical munitions, induding blister agent and
nerve gases, were removed from Okinawa and stock-
piled at Johnston. Rapid deterioration of the munitions
prompted the U.S. Army in the mid-1980s to construct
a high-technology indnerator to destroy them. The
plant is still incinerating the munitions today, subject to
various safeguards of the U.S. government.

Location: Central Caroline Islands, western Pacific,
Federated States of Micronesia

Description: Chuuk Lagoon is the largest single barrier
reef in Micronesia, enclosing reefs and a lagoon with
26 volcanic islands and 22 low coral islets. It is also the
largest urban center and the capital of Chuuk State in


Micronesia, home to nearly 50,000 residents living
mostly on several of the larger volcanic islands. The
atoll is noted for an exceptional diversity of fish,
marine invertebrates, and coral species (about 300
species of stony corals were recently cataloged here).
Chuuk is also a significant cultural center having been
continually occupied by Micronesians over the past
several thousand years. During World War II, nearly 70
Japanese naval vessels were sunk during a 1944 battle,
Operation Hailstone. During the past half century the
wrecks have been colonized by fish, sponges, seaweeds,
and soft corals. The shipwrecks of the lagoon are now
one of the premier sport diving destinations in the
world due to luxuriant reef growth and the historic sig-
nificance of the wrecks. Several dive operations and
most of the subsistence fishermen rely on the reefs and
lagoon for their catch.
Threats: Japanese military construction and Operation
Hailstone were the first major insults to Chuuk's coral
reefs. After the war the human population expanded
rapidly, placing ever increasing demands on marine
food resources (reef fish and shellfish). Fishers have
removed explosives from the residual World War II
munitions on the atoll, making them into bombs and
using them to blast reefs to stun, kill, and collect fish.
Blast fishing is still a serious threat to reefs, especially in
the more remote western lagoon, beyond the watchful
eyes of villagers and government enforcement. Blasting
has damaged about 10 percent of the reefs in the lagoon
according to a 1994 survey. Heavy urbanization, espe-
cially on Tonowas and Weno, has spurred dredging and
filling for land expansion and development, while

Military debris have become substrate for coral at Chuuk Lagoon.

sewage discharges into the lagoon from the islands has
reduced water quality and subsequently underwater visi-
bility at many of the dive sites. Reef fish populations are
being depleted from heavy fishing pressure, and nesting
sea turtle populations have nearly been eliminated from
the area. Rubbish is haphazardly dumped into man-
grove areas on the most populated islands, further
degrading water quality.

Location: Main Hawaiian Islands (USA), tropical Pacific

Description: The eight volcanic islands are generally
large (100 to 16,000 square kilometers), with the four
smallest (Lanai, Molokai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe)
sparsely settled and the largest (Oahu, Maui, Hawaii,
and Kauai) supporting rapidly growing urban popula-
tions. The Hawaiian Islands reefs are not noted for
high levels of coral, fish, and other reef species.
However, about 25 percent of their fauna consists of
endemic (unique) species, a manifestation of near con-
tinuous geographic isolation over a long time period.
Threats: During the past century, plantation agricul-
ture, ranching, and feral livestock introduced to the
islands reduced natural ground cover, increased soil
erosion, and subjected reefs to heavy sedimentation
especially off Oahu, south Molokai, northeast
Hawaii, east Kauai, and Maui. Military, and more
recently tourism development since World War II has
led to dredging and filling of many reefs, and coastal
sedimentation and heavy use of some reef sites.
However, the most serious threats
relate to rapid population growth
and urbanization, leading to
sewage discharges, additional
construction, overuse, overfish-
ing, industrial discharges, and
port development and opera-
tions. A spate of government
environmental laws and regula-
tions and coastal planning now
controls many but not all of
these influences, and overfishing
and water quality degradation
from nonpoint sources and
sewage will continue to be seri-
ous if not growing threats to the
reefs. Reefs within embayments,
such as Kaneohe (off Oahu), are
particularly vulnerable to urban-
related development.

R E E F S AT R I S K 37





he Reefs at Risk indicator presents our best estimate of likely threats to coral reefs
from human activities, but it is only an estimate. Our results confirm that there is
a critical need for detailed monitoring and assessment of reef habitats in order to
better document where and how coral reefs are threatened and to understand what measures
are needed to safeguard them. Scientists and managers have only rudimentary, incomplete
data on the status and health of coral reef ecosystems. For example, we still lack a complete
global map depicting reef location, and the vast majority of coral reefs are unassessed. This
and other basic information is essential for informed decision making by resource manage-
ment agencies, fishers, the tourism industry, and other sectors economically dependent on
reef resources. The public, non-governmental organizations and scientists need such data to
better understand and advocate for the protection and stewardship of coral reefs.

These data gaps are not for lack of tools. There are
a range of techniques for assessing and monitoring
coral reefs, each with advantages and limitations.
Generally, these entail tradeoffs between cost and
detail, and range from the use of satellite imagery to
map reef location (relatively low cost, but low detail)
to running underwater transects to measure reef
health (high cost, high detail). The optimal approach
is through multilevel sampling, where information
obtained from limited, detailed high-resolution
sampling is extrapolated to large areas based on
low-resolution data of wide coverage. The goal is to
use as much information as possible and available
to improve assessments at national, regional, and
global scales. The box titled "Tools and Techniques
for Monitoring and Mapping Coral Reefs" describes
some of the technological options at hand for
assessing reefs.
As of 1998, several major new initiatives were
underway to collect new data and synthesize existing
information so as to build a picture of the status of
reefs worldwide. These include:

Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN):
GCRMN will rely on governments and local communi-
ties to regularly assess the health of coral reefs and
their fish populations in about 80 countries of the
world. Permanent transects are to be established on
many reefs. The data will be fed into ReefBase (see
below). GCRMN is coordinated by the Australian
Institute for Marine Sciences and the International
Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management and
is a joint program of the International Oceanographic
Commission, the World Conservation Union (IUCN),
and the United Nations Environment Programme.

Reef Check Program: Through this volunteer effort,
hundreds of diving groups around the world are orga-
nizing annual field trips to gather transect data on
selected coral reefs. The Reef Check protocol (method-
ology) is simple, requiring only a few hours to explain,
but is dependent on the involvement of coral reef sci-
entists to supervise site selection and data gathering.
Three hundred reefs in 30 countries were surveyed
between June and August 1997.


ReefBase Aquanaut
Method: The ReefBase
Aquanaut Method has
been developed to
empower divers to con-
duct highly reliable sur-
veys independent of sci-
entists. Professional scuba
instructors teach the four-
day training course as an
advanced specialty course.
In addition to volunteers,
park rangers and mem-
bers of governmental and
private sector groups
tasked with coral reef
management also use the
training. In the Reef
Check and Aquanaut sys-
tems, data exchange and Reef surveys by scientific teams a
dissemination are facili- knowledge of the condition of cor
tated through ReefBase
(see below).

Other volunteer programs: Throughout the world,
increasing numbers of volunteers are conducting coral
reef surveys with organizations such as Reef Watch,
Reef Keeper, REEF, Frontier, and Coral Cay
Conservation. Efforts are underway to coordinate this
work. In many cases, volunteer surveys have had sub-
stantial impact on coral reef management and public

ReefBase: ReefBase was initiated in late 1993 to con-
solidate and disseminate information useful in manag-
ing coral reefs.74 This database, produced by ICLARM, is
the most comprehensive source of information on reefs
available, providing ecological and socioeconomic data
on sites around the world. It indudes digital maps of
coral reefs provided by the World Conservation
Monitoring Centre (WCMC), space shuttle and satellite
images contributed by the National Atmospheric and
Space Administration (NASA) and others, and pho-
tographs of reefs contributed by volunteers. ReefBase
is currently distributed yearly on CD-ROMs, and
major portions are available through a Web site

Bringing scientists together: The International
Coral Reef Symposia (ICRS) are held approximately
every four years, and serve as a primary focal point for
the analysis and official release of information on coral

nd by recreational divers in volunteer programs are improving our
al reefs around the world.

reef status (the next session will be held in 2000 in
Bali, Indonesia). In November 1998, a new series of
conferences will be initiated, focused particularly on
management concerns. The first International Tropical
Marine Ecosystem Management Symposium, to be held
in Australia, will provide a forum for the evaluation of
the success of the International Coral Reef Initiative in
the three and a half years since the first global work-
shop. Other periodic conferences of importance in the
release and critical evaluation of reef information
include the regional meetings of the International
Society for Reef Studies, the Pacific Science Congresses,
the West-Pac Conferences, and many others.

Most available data collection is focused on the bio-
logical and physical dimensions of reefs: species found
within these ecosystems, the location of these habitats,
degree of degradation, etc. Socioeconomic and politi-
cal information can help managers, scientists, and
others better understand the direct and underlying fac-
tors that result in changes in reef condition (for exam-
ple, subsidies and laws that result in overfishing).
Information that can be used to quantify the direct
and indirect values derived from coral reef ecosystems
is important input for weighing development and
management options. Collection of such policy-
relevant data should be a priority in future monitoring
and assessment efforts.


Satellite-based sensors: Satellite imagery can be used
for low-cost, albeit coarse-scale mapping of coral
reefs, and as such is probably the most effective way
to build a comprehensive picture of where the
world's reefs are located. Satellite data can also pro-
vide information on sea-surface temperatures, wave
height and direction, and primary production in
upper waters. They may also be useful for distin-
guishing living from dead coral in very shallow
waters. Military agencies have more comprehensive
satellite data, often at a much finer resolution; how-
ever, these data are rarely available for public use.7, 76

Aerial photography and sensors: Photos and data
from overflights of reefs can provide a more detailed
picture of reef location, and can yield bathymetric
data to depths of several tens of meters." However,
aerial surveys and the analysis of their products are
far more costly than those derived from satellite
information and are difficult or impossible to con-
duct legally in many countries because of security
concerns. These data can determine living from dead
coral, but only within very shallow water."8 Costs have
been reduced by using ultralight aircraft,79 balloons,
kites,8" and other devices. With improvements in com-
puter technology, it will be possible to survey reefs
with remote-controlled aircraft, further cutting
costs.81 82 83 84

Ship and boat-based sensors: Research vessels carry a
range of sensors useful for detailed mapping of coral
reefs. Various types of sonar can be used to produce
three-dimensional images of coral and distinguish
between different types of bottom substrate. Passive
acoustic analysis, along with sonar in some
instances, can distinguish between live and dead
reefs. Research vessels play a vital role in surveying
and mapping coral reef habitats. However, they are
costly to operate (generally ranging around $10,000
per day). One way to reduce costs, and better utilize
existing research vessel fleets, is to conduct reef sur-
veys during the course of other oceanographic and
fishery investigations.85 86

Submersibles: Manned and unmanned submarines
play an essential role in assessing coral reefs in
waters below a 30-meter depth-beyond the practi-
cal working limits for scuba diving. Although the
technological capacity available for exploring the
world's oceans is highly developed, there are very few
submersibles in the world that are available for
undersea research. Promising new technologies are
coming on line for conducting transect surveys, dis-
tinguishing live from dead coral cover using laser-
line sensing devices, and conducting rapid, large area
assessments at various depths including shallower
waters accessible by scuba divers." 88

Diving surveys: Scuba-diving scientists are the main
source of information on reefs in shallower waters
today (down to 30 meters in depth). However, the
specific objectives, taxa of focus, and sampling
approaches severely limit the comparability of the
data among regions and over time. In addition,
scuba-based assessments and monitoring are limited
by the number of scientists available for this work
and the small area that can be covered by one indi-
vidual. Survey protocols are being developed so that
recreational divers and others can help gather data,
often on a volunteer basis. This offers tremendous
potential for gathering new information on reefs,
since there are several million scuba divers in the
world and several times as many people proficient
at skin diving with mask or goggles. Similarly, resi-
dents of coastal communities can be recruited to
evaluate their reefs through participatory resource
mapping. This low-tech approach is particularly rel-
evant in developing countries, where few can afford
expensive scuba equipment. Here, villagers are
trained to gather general information on the cover-
age of various ecosystems, supplemented with
descriptions of simple factors such as hard coral
cover, and then transfer the data to a map using a
simple compass. Work on this type of approach is
underway through various programs, such as the
Coastal Resource Management Program in the









Maintaining the biological diversity, condition, resources, and values of coral reefs and related
ecosystems is a matter of global urgency. While the majority of countries which have coral reefs are
developing countries, there are many reefs in the waters of developed countries. This unites the
developed and developing countries and should command the attention of the international community.
Coral reef survival depends upon the world community acquiring and maintaining the knowledge and
capacity to conserve and sustainably use coral reefs and related ecosystems. This requires that all uses
and impact be brought within and maintained at levels which do not exceed these systems' natural
capacity for production and regeneration.
-from the International Coral Reef Initiative Framework for Action

ects at Risk demonstrates that coral reefs around the world face threats from over-
fihing, coastal development, and other human activity. In most places these pres-
sures will grow as economies develop and coastal populations swell. Despite these
sobering trends, the news is not all bad. Careful planning and management can assure
healthy reefs while meeting the needs of local people. Increased concern about, and interest
in, coral reef issues is translating into action at local, national, and international levels to
protect and conserve reef resources. As we illustrate at the end of this section, promising
efforts are under way in many parts of the world.

This report, because it is an indicator analysis, does
not list policy recommendations, or provide a compre-
hensive overview of management approaches and initia-
tives to protect and conserve reef ecosystems. Instead,
we provide a few examples of the types of efforts under
way to address threats to these habitats.
The box "International Agreements and Initiatives"
outlines some of the global activities that are helping
to focus attention on coral reefs and, in some cases, to
mobilize governments and people to better monitor
and manage these habitats. The section titled
"Improving Our Knowledge Base" details some of the

data collection efforts under way worldwide to track
the health of reef ecosystems.
The most important actions for promoting healthy
coral reef ecosystems are taken at local and national
levels. These depend on efforts by local governments,
community groups, environmental organizations, the
private sector, and others. Successful approaches are
often based on cross-sectoral planning and manage-
ment at a landscape scale to assure, for example, that
agricultural polices within inland watersheds do not
impact reef-dependent fisheries and tourism along the
coast. Some of the actions that can best protect reefs


are not directly linked to conservation. They range
from building sewage and industrial waste treatment
facilities to minimize pollution of coastal habitats to
removing the host of subsidies and incentives-in the
agricultural, forestry development, fisheries, and other
economic sectors-that result in degradation of water
quality, direct destruction of reef habitats, and overex-
ploitation of reef species.
For these approaches to work, legislation backed up
by enforcement of these laws and regulations must be
in place to protect reef resources. Restrictions alone will
not work. Successful management approaches address
the underlying causes of reef degradation by promoting
economic development while protecting coral reef
habitats. Examples include providing alternative liveli-
hoods for people engaged in destructive activities
through economic necessity, training fishers to use less
destructive fishing methods, and regulating access and
use of reef resources by establishing community owner-
ship over reef fisheries and through other approaches.
Environmental education plays an important role in
building public support for better reef management.
One of the most effective approaches for combating
threats to reefs is through a well-managed, representa-
tive marine protected area system (see box "Reefs and
Marine Protected Areas"). Marine parks, sanctuaries, and
reserves can protect reef ecosystems and species while
generating tourism dollars and maintaining the vitality
of nearby fisheries. The World Conservation Union has
called on countries to protect 10 percent of all habitat
types. However, with one or two exceptions (such as
Australia), countries protect a far lower percentage of
their coral reefs, and all have a long way to go in order
to meet a recently proposed global target of protecting
20 percent of the oceans. Protection alone, however,
cannot safeguard reefs from the sedimentation, pollu-
tion, and other threats that originate outside the
boundaries of parks and reserves.
Around the world, governments and people are taking
steps to conserve and restore coral reef ecosystems. Seven
examples, most contributed by experts who helped us
with the Reefs at Risk assessment, are profiled below.

Location: Bermuda, Atlantic Ocean
Signs of progress: Catch levels of grouper and snapper,
two important reef species, defined significantly from
the mid-1970s, apparently due to overharvesting. Total
grouper catch per fishing pot (a fish trap commonly
used to catch reef species) dropped from 1.8 to 0.65
kilos between 1975 and 1985, with smaller fish increas-
ingly predominating. Meanwhile, fish traps and boat

anchoring by fishers and recreational boats were dam-
aging reef structure.90 Under pressure from hotel owners,
dive operators, and other businesses, the government
closed the $2 million pot fishing industry in 1990,
compensating fishers for the cost of their gear and lost
revenue. In doing so, Bermuda recognized the impor-
tance of its lucrative reef-based tourism and recreational
industries-valued at over $9 million in 1988-while
benefiting reef biodiversity in the process.9192

Location: Sulu Sea, Philippines
Signs of progress: In the late 1980s, overfishing and
destructive fishing practices were rampant here, with
coral cover reduced by 50 percent over a five-year period
ending in 1989.93 The 33,200-hectare area is now a
national marine park (the only one in the Philippines)
and was dedared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in
1994. Non-governmental organizations and the govern-
ment have worked together to manage the park since its
establishment in 1988. The navy, with assistance from
NGOs, is patrolling the area to stop illegal fishing. In
1997, all fishing activities were halted within the park
and a ranger station was constructed. In 1998, a park
management board was put into place. Environmental
education materials have been disseminated to stake-
holders in the area, and the dive tourism industry is
helping to install anchor buoys and regulate the activi-
ties of divers on the reefs. The condition of the coral
reef substrate has improved remarkably since 1989 and
the diversity of fish is exceptionally high.94

Location: Central Visayas, Philippines
Signs of progress: In the late 1970s, blast and cyanide
fishing, as well as other destructive fishing practices,
threatened these and other reefs in Central Visayas.
Thanks to a community-based marine management
program, put in place in the mid-1980s, these practices
ceased by 1997. Under this program, Silliman
University staff helped organize local people into
marine management committees. These groups then
set up marine reserves that included no-fishing sanctu-
aries on one portion of the reef. With the aid of munic-
ipal governments, residents have continued to prevent
reef damage from fishermen and divers, both within
and outside the sanctuaries. A growing tourism indus-
try catering to scuba divers is providing much needed
revenue to local communities. In 1992, surveys indi-
cated that live coral cover and fish populations within
the sanctuaries had increased substantially along with
fish yields per unit area offApo Island.


Location: Off the coast of Flores,
eastern Indonesia
Signs of progress: The park (which is
also a Man and Biosphere Reserve
and a World Heritage Site) covers
1,320 square kilometers of water
and adjacent land areas. Reefs here
exhibit exceptionally high fish
species diversity (home to an esti-
mated 900 to 1,000 fish species).
The area is also home to many
types of corals, sponges, and marine
mammals. Fishing and tourism are
major income generators in the area
around the park. However, these
resources have been under serious

threat due to destructive fishing
To combat overfishing and destructive fishing prac-
tices, The Nature Conservancy and the Komodo
National Park Authority developed a marine resource
management plan, which is now in the early phase of
implementation. Along with beefing up law enforce-
ment, they are working with local communities to
promote alternative livelihood programs, and have
initiated training and awareness-building and other
projects. These activities are paying off For example,
dynamite fishing went down from an average of more
than 10 blasts per month in early 1996 to around one
blast per month in late 1996 when routine park patrols
were started. Fishermen are being encouraged, success-
fully, to shift their efforts to catching deeper-water
species, keeping them off the reefs.

Location: Palau (southern lagoon of main islands),
western Pacific
Signs of progress: The 500 rock islands located in the
southern lagoon are renowned for their beauty. The
lagoon supports the largest hawksbill sea turtle popula-
tions in Micronesia, although nesting adults are being
seriously overharvested. Palau also boasts exceptional
species diversity of reef life and supports other marine
mammals and reptiles, such as dugongs and saltwater
crocodiles, not found elsewhere in Micronesia. Urban
and resort development pose the most serious threats
to this area. The Nature Conservancy and the Palau
Conservation Society are successfully working with
local communities and the government to protect the
Palau reefs.

Location: Kenya
Signs of progress: The Mombasa Marine National Park
is adjacent to the most heavily populated tourist beach
along the Kenyan coast. The reefs are threatened by
overfishing, destructive fishing from beat seining and
spear fishing, organic pollution and sedimentation,
and tourist damage from trampling. The reduction of
predatory fish led to increases in burrowing sea
urchins, whose excavations began to reduce the reef
framework to rubble. In 1989, the area was officially
gazetted by the Kenya government as a marine park.
Management activities include patrolling, beach dean-
ing, regulation of tourist activities (induding glass bot-
tom boat excursions), and maintenance of moorings.
Surveys carried out since 1988 have shown a major
increase in fin fish size, abundance, and diversity;
recorded coral cover has increased from 8 to 30 per-
cent; and sea urchin numbers have decreased steadily
throughout the survey period. The number of sea tur-
tles recorded nesting in the area has also increased.

Location: Australia
Signs of progress: The Great Barrier Reef actually consists
of about 3,000 individual reefs spread over at least
350,000 square kilometers. The largest reef in the world,
it still remains in generally good condition, although
runoff of silt, nutrients, and contaminants from agricul-
tural, urban, and industrial areas may pose localized
threats in some places. The marine park embraces the


Sr r l

The coral reefs of Palau support exceptional species diversity.

total reef area. Mining is banned, but most of the area is
open to fishing and diving and, in some locations, to
the development of tourism infrastructure. About 20
percent of the reef is zoned as "no take" areas, where

fishing is off-limits. Commercial prawn trawling is
taking its toll, however, on sea floor structure and bio-
diversity. These effects, and those of line fishing, are
subject to scientific assessment through large-scale

The development of a global system of marine protected areas
(MPAs) lags far behind that of the terrestrial biosphere in both
the extent and the effectiveness of its coverage. Nonetheless,
it is increasingly apparent that MPAs can play a vitally impor-
tant role in protecting marine habitats, particularly when form-
ing part of a wider program of measures for coastal and
marine management. Many coral reef scientists and managers
promote the inclusion of small reserves in planning at the scale
of the municipality, while large reserves are the necessary sup-
plement to ensure sustainability and to provide for the needs
of species requiring large areas to forage.
Based on what is probably the most comprehensive list cur-
rently available,* we estimate that there are at least 400 MPAs
including coral reefs in more than 65 countries and territories.
(See Map 6.)Although important as it currently stands, this list
clearly does not represent anything like a global network,
although it does provide a framework for one. There are at least
40 countries with no formal protection for their coral reefs, and
there are significant regional gaps in this network. The Indian
Ocean region, the west coast of the Americas, Solomon
Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, and the Philippines, forexample,
are all underrepresented. With the exception of a few very
large sites such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Florida Keys
National Marine Sanctuary, and the Ras Mohammed Park
Complex in Egypt, the great majority of protected coral reefs
are very small indeed: more than 150 of the MPAs mentioned
are less than one square kilometer in size. Outside of the
largest sites just mentioned, it is likely that less than 3 percent
of the world's coral reefs are protected.
MPAs provide some of the great points of hope for coral
reefs. The Great Barrier Reef, the world's second-largest pro-
tected area (after northeast Greenland!), is a model of inte-
grated and multiple-use management, allowing sustainable uti-
lization of the reef by a wide range of userswith numerous and
often conflicting needs. Bonaire Marine Park in the Caribbean is
one of the first self-funding protected areas, supported entirely
from tourist revenues (which also bring in half of that country's
total gross domestic product). Apo Island, in the Philippines, is a

*Taken from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre's Protected Areas
Database, a global database managed in collaboration with the IUCN's
World Commission on Protected Areas, which houses information on more
than 30,000 sites, including more than 3,000 marine protected areas.

tiny fishing reserve that, in the years since its designation, has
allowed stocks to recover sufficiently so that local fishermen
operating in the surrounding areas are reporting major increas-
es in fish yields. Such cases provide overwhelming support for
the economic, social, and political arguments to protect coral
However, many existing MPAs exist only as "paper parks"
where legislation is not enforced, resources are lacking for
protecting these areas, or management plans are poorly con-
ceived. In other MPAs, management safeguards are in place,
but pressures outside parks and reserves undermine the
integrity of protected marine habitats. This was documented in
a recent global study, where of 383 MPAs assessed for man-
agement effectiveness, conservation objectives were
achieved at less than a third (117) of these sites (that is, man-
agement effectiveness was ranked as "high").95
Johnston Atoll serves as one example of this problem (see
section titled "Twelve Reefsat Risk"). Probably among the earli-
est designations of a coral reef protected area, this site has
been subjected to massive military development, high atmos-
pheric nuclear testing, chemical waste disposal, and other
threats. Elsewhere, external influences beyond the control of
the management agencies undermine protected marine habi-
tats. Reefs are highly dynamic and open systems. They cannot
be fenced off and are dependent on the flow of currents carry-
ing nutrients, circulating waterand oxygen, and transporting
larvae and other materials. But it is these same water move-
ments that carry pollutants and sediments into protected areas,
while overfishing upstream of a reef may cut off the vital supply
of new recruits of coral and fish to the reef community.
In this assessment, we found that reefs within many MPAs
are under high potential threat. These include the Gulf of
Mannar National Park in India; Bunaken, Bali Barat, Komodo,
and Kepulauan Togian National Parks in Indonesia; Mochima
National Park in Venezuela; Iriomote and Okinawa Kaigan
National Parks in Japan; Pulau Tiga and Turtle Islands in
Malaysia; Corals del Rosario in Colombia; and others.
Protected areas can play a vital role, and act as flagships for
the protection of coral reefs, but cannot be designated in isola-
tion. The need fora more concerted and broadly based man-
agement regime, in many cases crossing national boundaries,
will be essential for the ultimate protection of many reefs.


investigations. Strong stakeholder
involvement, education programs, and
enforcement are all combined to achieve
compliance with, and support for, park
regulations and management plans. The
Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is
a classic and often cited example of how
management can be applied successfully
to conserve entire ecosystems.

The International Coral Reef
Initiative's Framework for Action (see
box "International Agreements and
Initiatives") outlines the broad types of
local and national efforts needed to
assure the integrity of reef ecosystems. Protection and p
These include, but are not limited to,
involving stakeholder groups at all levels of decision
making; integrated coastal zone management; educat-
ing the public, policy-makers, and others about reef
issues and how these habitats should be managed;
strong environmental laws; encouraging micro-enter-
prise development; promoting environmentally sound
land use practices; cracking down on illegal fishing and

MAP 6. Ma ProtctedA

I -I

A Mrk Pi

Proper management can allow damaged reefs to recover.

promoting sustainable fisheries management; develop-
ing disaster strategies to minimize threats to reefs when
oil spills and unforeseen events occur; and developing
an effective network of marine protected areas. If
implemented, these steps would help ensure that reefs
at risk today are maintained as healthy ecosystems in
the future.

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;i' eb

Although there are no internationally binding conservation
targets or treaties related specificallyto coral reefs, a range
of existing initiatives and agreements are in place that have
helped focus attention on these ecosystems. These include:
The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI):
This effort was first launched in 1995, under the sponsor-
ship of eight countries (the United States, Philippines,
Japan, Australia, Jamaica, France, Sweden, and the United
Kingdom). ICRI seeks to promote the sustainable man-
agement and use of coral reefs and related ecosystems
(mangroves and sea grass beds) through a range of activi-
ties that have included regional workshops to identify
area-specific issues and priorities and opportunities for
collaboration between countries.
The Framework for Action: A major outcome of the
first ICRI workshop was the production of a Framework for
Action, which was subsequently agreed to by representatives
of at least 80 governments and a variety of non-governmental
organizations and funding agencies. This framework includes
actions to be taken in the areas of management, capacity
building, research and monitoring, and review. For the frame-
work to be effective, it must be strongly supported and
accepted as the standard guideline for the implementation of
improved coral reef management.
The International Year of the Coral Reef:As part of
an international awareness-raising campaign under ICRI,
1997was declared the "Year of the Reef." Environmental
organizations, museums and aquaria, research institutions,
and other groups hosted activities to promote public educa-
tion, data collection and assessment, and reef management
around the world.
The International Year of the Ocean: The United
Nations declared 1998 the "Yearof the Ocean" to help main-
tain media and public attention on coral reefs and other
marine habitats.
Protected area targets: The World Conservation
Union (IUCN), a nonprofit organization with a broad gov-
ernment and non-governmental organization membership,
proposed, in 1992, that countries protect a minimum of 10
percent of their ecosystems, a target that has since gained
wide endorsement.96 More recently, at an American
Association for the Advancement of Science special sympo-
sium on marine protected areas held in Seattle in 1997, Dr.
Jane Lubchenco called for the setting aside of 20 percent of
the surface area of the world's oceans as no-take protected

reserves by the year 2020. Within no-take areas, all fishing
is prohibited. The 20-percent-by-2020 goal is supported by
a number of scientists and other experts, who recommend
that it be a major focus of activities beyond the International
Year of the Reef.97
The Convention on Biological Diversity: This 1992
binding agreement requires countries to develop and imple-
ment strategies for the sustainable use and protection of bio-
diversity, including that of marine ecosystems. Many of the
signatory nations have developed national-level strategies
and action plans to this end. Marine issues are specifically
addressed in the convention's 1995 Jakarta Mandate on
Coastal and Marine Biodiversity.98 To date, however, few con-
crete actions have been taken to implement this workplan.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES): This binding
agreement, which came into force in 1975, prohibits most
international trade of certain species (Appendix I species)
and regulates that of others through a permit system
(Appendix II species). All stony corals and black corals are
listed as Appendix II species, and as such receive some pro-
tection, although currently it is difficult to track their trade
due to nonstandardized reporting protocols.99 CITES could
be a more effective treaty for protecting coral reef biodiver-
sity if there were adequate data on the status of marine
species (without proof that a species is threatened, there
are no grounds for limiting its trade).
There are a range of other international agreements and
initiatives covering marine pollution, land-based pollution,
fisheries, and protected areas relevant to coral reefs. They
offer both mechanisms for reducing human impact on reef
ecosystems (for example, the United Nations Conference on
the Protection of the Marine Environment From Land-Based
Activities and the Convention for the Prevention of Pollution
from Ships) and means for better protecting coral reefs (for
example, World Heritage Convention, Ramsar Convention,
and the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme).100



Implementation of the Reefs at Risk Indicator

Reefs at Risk is a global assessment of likely threats to
coral reefs from four separate threat factors: coastal devel-
opment, marine-based pollution, overexploitation of
marine resources, and inland pollution, including sedi-
mentation. Zones of high, medium, and low threat were
estimated for each of the threat factors, and were com-
bined (through spatial overlay analysis) with a data set
reflecting the location of coral reefs. Coral reefs are repre-
sented by a four-kilometer resolution data set (55,168
cells) reflecting shallow coral reefs of the world from the
World Conservation Monitoring Centre. This data set was
classified as follows:

* Reefs classified as under high threat in at least one of
the individual threat factors were classified as under
high threat overall;
m Reefs classified as under medium threat in at least
one threat factor were classified as under medium
threat overall; and
* Reefs classified as under low threat in all four threat
factors were classified as under low threat overall.

Details of the individual threat factors follow.

Implementation of the Coastal Development Threat

Proxies were developed to reflect the likely threat from
pollution and sedimentation associated with coastal
development. Stressors within the threat factor are cities
with a population of more than 100,000, settlements of
any size, airports (induding some military bases), mines,
and tourist resorts. Both the rationale for inclusion of
each of these stressors and the details of implementation
are described below.

Cities: Cities were differentiated based both upon size
and upon likely level of sewage treatment, as both are
important factors relating to the potential threat a city
presents to nearby coral reefs. All cities with a population
of 100,000 or more were differentiated as to likely level of
sewage treatment based upon income level. Additionally,
large cities (above one million and five million person
thresholds) were assumed to have larger zones of poten-
tial effect than smaller cities, regardless of income level.

Cities with populations of more than 100,000 come
from the World Cities Data Base by Birbeck College.
The World Bank's classification of income level was
used as a means of differentiating likely degree of treat-
ment of sewage for all cities with a population of more
than 100,000. Cities in low-income and lower-middle-
income countries were assumed to have little treatment
of sewage, while those in upper-middle and high-
income countries were assumed to have at least moder-
ate treatment. *
Areas were classified as being under high threat if with-
in 10 kilometers of a city assumed to have little sewage
treatment. Areas were classified as being under medium
threat if within 10 kilometers of a city assumed to have at
least moderate sewage treatment or within 25 kilometers
of a city assumed to have little sewage treatment.
The additional threat associated with large ties was
implemented for two population sizes. Areas were dassi-
fied as being under high threat if within 20 kilometers of
a city of one million or more, or within 30 kilometers of
a dty of five million or more. Areas were classified as
being under medium threat if within 40 kilometers of a
dty of one million or more, or within 60 kilometers of a
dty of five million or more.

Settlements: Population centers of less than 100,000 can
also present a significant threat to coral reefs. The
Populated Place data set from the Digital Chart of the
World (DCW) by the U.S. Defense Mapping Agency
(DMA) and the Environmental Systems Research Institute
(ESRI) was used to reflect settlements of any size. There
are more than 206,000 settlement locations represented,
with about 60,000 of these within the 60-kilometer
coastal zone. Areas were classified as being under medi-
um threat if within 8 kilometers of a settlement.

Airports and Military Bases: Airports and military bases
are potential stressors to coral reefs directly, as a result of

*Low and lower-middle income countries include Algeria, Angola,
Bangladesh, Benin, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Congo, Cuba,
Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ghana, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iran,
Iraq, Jamaica, Lebanon, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan,
Panama, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal,
Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Yemen.
Upper-middle and high income countries include Australia, Brazil, Chile,
Curacao, Gabon, Guam, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New
Zealand, Puerto Rico, Saint Lucia, Singapore, South Africa, St.
Thomas, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, and the
United States.


construction, renovations, and emissions, and also
indirectly, through the increased activities associated with
the transit of people and goods. The 8,235 military and
civilian airports from the DCW were used for this analy-
sis, supplemented by military bases that were added to
the maps at the two-day Reefs at Risk workshop held in
September 1997 in Manila. Areas were classified as being
under medium threat if within 10 kilometers of an air-
port or military base.

Mines: Sedimentation and pollution associated with
mining can present a significant threat to coral reefs. The
DCW data set on mines, induding 8,515 mines that are
undifferentiated by type, served as the base data set. This
was supplemented by eight mine locations added to
maps at the expert workshop. Areas were classified as
being under high threat if within 10 kilometers of a

Tourist Resorts: Tourism represents threats to coral
reefs-and their potential salvation. Types of tourism and
resorts vary widely. The philosophies of the owner and
guests, the resort design, and the care taken in implemen-
tation all affect whether a tourist site or resort will be a
benefit or harm to nearby coral reefs.
The data set used to evaluate areas likely to be under
threat from tourism is based upon resort and dive fadlity
locations and areas of known impact to coral reefs from
tourism. A data set of 628 locations was assembled from
ReefBase's Lodging Fadlities (232) and Dive Fadlities (207)
data sets, ReefBase's known locations of reefs impacted by
tourism (131), and additional resort locations that were
added to maps at the expert workshop (58).
Areas were classified as being under medium threat if
within 8 kilometers of a tourist resort or location of
known impact.

Embayments: Pollution and sediment entering endosed
areas such as bays and lagoons will not flush out as easily
as in open areas and can result in an elevated threat to
coral reefs. A data set of 650 embayments in areas near
coral reefs was developed. Areas classified as being under
medium risk from any of the above coastal development
stress factors that were also identified as an embayment
were reclassified as being under high threat.

Implementation of the Marine-based Pollution
Threat Factor

Proxies were developed to reflect the likely threat associ-
ated with pollution from oil rigs, tanks, and wells and
from ports, as well as the threat to reefs from shipping.

Ports: Large- and medium-sized ports, as defined by
the U.S. Defense Mapping Agency's World Port Index
(1994) were used in this analysis. Additionally, a
number of ports were added based upon input from
our reef experts at the Manila workshop. These addi-
tional ports were treated as small ports in the
analysis. There were 125 large, 288 medium, and 61
small ports.
Areas were classified as being under high threat if
within 20 kilometers of a large port or 10 kilometers of
a medium-sized port. Areas were classified as being
under medium threat if within 50 kilometers of a large
port, 30 kilometers of a medium-sized port, or 10 kilo-
meters of a small port.

Oil-related Threats: Information on oil wells and oil
tanks come from the DCW. The locations of several
additional oil wells were added by experts at the work-
shop. There were 794 oil wells and 134 oil tanks in the
DCW data sets, while 13 points representing oil well
locations were added.
Areas were classified as being under high threat if
within four kilometers of an oil tank or well and under
medium threat if within 10 kilometers of an oil tank or

Shipping-related Threats: Areas of intense shipping
traffic pose threats to reefs from discharges, spills, and
potential groundings. Although most of the world's
oceans are crisscrossed at one time or another by ves-
sels, many areas experience a much heavier volume of
traffic, and this can be particularly acute in areas of
narrow passage or narrow channels.
Areas were defined as "shipping threat areas" if they
are along known shipping routes and have relatively
narrow areas for passage or have adjacent shallow reefs.
These areas, as revised by reef experts at the Manila
workshop, were classified as being under medium

Implementation of the Overexploitation Threat Factor

Proxies were developed to reflect the likely threat from
population-driven overfishing and destructive fishing
practices (dynamite fishing, fishing using poisons, and

Overfishing: Only countries where the per capital gross
national product is less than $10,000 per year or the
per capital fish consumption is greater than 50 kilo-
grams per year were considered. (In considering coastal
countries with or near coral reefs, Australia, the


Bahamas, Hong Kong, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore,
and the United States were excluded. Japan was not
excluded because the per capital fish consumption
exceeds 50 kilograms per year.)
For all other countries, high threat areas were identi-
fied as being within 20 kilometers of coastal areas
where the population density exceeds 100 persons per
square kilometer, and medium threat areas were identi-
fied as being within 20 kilometers of coastal areas
where the population density exceeds 20 persons per
square kilometer. The medium-resolution global data
set Gridded Population of the World, from the
National Center for Geographic Information and
Analysis-Global Demography Project, was used to rep-
resent population density.

Destructive Fishing Practices: The original estimation
of areas under high threat from destructive fishing was
defined as being within a 20-kilometer radius of a known
occurrence of dynamite or cyanide fishing, as reflected in
ReefBase. This estimate has since been revised (both
expanded and reduced in a few areas) based upon expert
input, obtained at the Manila workshop. These revised
areas were classified as under high threat.

Implementation of the Inland Pollution and Erosion
Threat Factor

The inland pollution threat factor is analytically more
complicated than the other factors. Hydrologic model-
ing and geographic overlay analysis were used to incor-
porate information on topography, land use, and pre-
cipitation. There are three main steps to the method.
In the first step of the analysis, a surface reflecting
relative erosion potential (REP) was developed based
upon slope, land-cover type, and mean monthly pre-
cipitation for the peak rainfall month. The variable
reflecting land cover type was reclassified based upon a
relative erosion rate derived from the literature and
applied as follows to the land cover classes used by the
International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP).
(See Table 4.)

The analysis was performed at one-kilometer resolu-
tion for small islands and at three-kilometer resolution
for continental areas. The formula for REP is:

REP = Slope 1.5 Relative_Erosion_Rate *
Precipitation / 1000

Slope is in percent slope, Relative Erosion Rate is
defined in Table 4, and Precipitation reflects mean

Reaive Erso [ Ratesn v !~

Water body
Evergreen broadleaf forest
Evergreen needleleaf forest
Deciduous needleleaf
Closed shrub land
Open shrub land
Woody savanna
Permanent wetlands
Croplands/natural mix
Urban and built up
Barren or sparsely vegetated

Relative Erosion Rate

monthly precipitation for the peak rainfall month dur-
ing the year in millimeters.
In the second part of the analysis, the REP surface
was aggregated by watershed through the use of a sum-
mary statistic for the watershed. Mean REP for the
watershed was used to dassify watersheds as low, med-
ium, or high REP. For coastal watersheds, this classifica-
tion defines the level of threat from sedimentation.
In the third part of the analysis, the relevant zone of
effect for sediment delivery was estimated. Flow accu-
mulation within the watershed, weighted by rainfall for
the peak rainfall month, was estimated for each water-
shed and was used as a proxy for flow (discharge) at the
coastal pour point. This flow estimate was the basis for
scaling the circular buffers reflecting zone of effect. t
Information on plume distances for 20 rivers of the
world was used as the basis for this scaling. The estimated
plume area for each river was classed according to the
threat classification from step 2.
To summarize the implementation of the inland pol-
lution threat factor: At coastal river mouths, a zone of

*As the range of nutrient plumes into the marine realm is far beyond
the range of effects of sedimentation (Hallock, Muller-Karger and
Halas, 1993, National Geographic Research and Exploration,
9:358-78) this method might underestimate the zone of effect.
tit is recognized that it would be ideal to take ocean currents into
account when estimating the sediment plume, or zone of effect, but
this was not possible within this global-scale analysis due to the lack
of a sufficiently detailed global data set on ocean currents. Not
including ocean currents in the analysis will serve to overestimate the
zone of effect, but mostly offshore, where reefs typically do not
occur. As such, exclusion of this variable should not significantly
affect the classification of threat to reefs.


potential impact from inland (upstream) land-use activi-
ties was developed based upon the relative estimate of
flow within the watershed, while the degree of threat
(low, medium, or high) is based upon the mean estimate
of REP for the watershed. The REP itself is a function of
slope, land cover, and mean precipitation for the peak
rainfall month for that area.
There were 3,260 pour points (discharge points) in the
global analysis. The mean REP for the watersheds above
these pour points was 41.7, the median was 12.5, and the
maximum was 1,412. REP is a unitless value reflecting
the relative erosion potential for a land surface area.
* watersheds with a mean REP of less than 5 were das-
sified as under low threat;
* watersheds with a mean REP between 5 and 45 were
classified as under medium threat; and
* watersheds with a mean REP above 45 were classified
as under high threat.
River flow estimates are also in unitless, relative terms.
The river flow estimate for coastal pour points have a
mean of 566, a median of 40.8, and a maximum (for the
Amazon) of 204,600.
Table 5 summarizes the modeled river flow estimates
and the associated plume distances (zone of effect)

Accuracy Issues
The Reefs at Risk indicator was implemented using the
best available global data sets. (The 14 data sets used are
described above.) The data sets are of varying spatial
accuracy and completeness, and reflect slightly different
time periods. For example, the data sets from the DCW
reflecting settlements, oil wells, and mines were devel-
oped during the 1970s and 1980s, and were largely
revised during the late 1980s. Recently developed oil
wells or mines would be missing from the data sets.
Information on tourist resorts from ReefBase is part of an

Tal .RvrFo siatsadAscae lm

River Flow (000)

over 100,000

Plume (km) Number of
15 544
25 569
40 296
50 838
60 366
70 244
80 206
90 88
100 57
120 30
140 8
160 7
200 1

ongoing data development effort and, as such, is not
comprehensive. Additionally, the spatial accuracy of these
data sets varies from better than one kilometer for the
data sets from the DCW, the land cover and topographic
data sets, to up to several kilometers for some of the data
in ReefBase, the World Cities Data Base, and the popula-
tion density data. The spatial accuracy issues associated
with using this range of data sets is mitigated through
aggregating all data to a standard four-kilometer resolu-
tion grid, consistent with the four-kilometer resolution
data set reflecting shallow coral reefs from the World
Conservation Monitoring Centre. The analysis was imple-
mented at four-kilometer resolution.

Regional Groupings
Within the Reefs at Risk analysis, regional summary
statistics were based on the regional groupings as
presented in the map below.

MAP 7. Regions Used for Summary Statistics
Me. ----

. i?, .- `

A. =ean o I-mt Eat
RCarbn :w PA-cId
Indan Oean SoiAW AWiN


"L :

Comments on the

Reefs at Risk


The Reefs at Risk analysis reflects modeled esti-
mates of threats to coral reefs and is driven by
data sets reflecting population density, human
population centers, infrastructure and activities,
and our derived estimates of threats from inland
pollution and sedimentation. These estimates
should not be taken to reflect current reef con-
dition, nor should they be taken to reflect all
known threats to coral reefs. Estimation of
threats to reefs was particularly difficult for
remote areas in the Pacific, which are less visi-
ted and for which global data sets tend to be
less complete.

During review of these final threat dassifications,
coral reef experts provided the following observations:

Tropical Americas
1. The Florida Keys reefs are classified as under
medium threat from marine pollution and coastal
development. This is regarded as a potential under-
estimate of threat.
2. The reefs off southern Belize are classified as
being under high threat, largely from inland pollu-
tion and erosion. This is regarded as a potential
overestimate of threat, relative to other reefs in that
3. The reefs off western Costa Rica were estimated
to be under high threat from coastal development
and inland pollution and erosion. One researcher
suggested that this overestimates threat in that area.
4. Bermuda's reefs are classified as being under
high threat from overexploitation. This is an over-
estimate of current threat since the pot fishing
industry was dosed in 1990.

Indian Ocean
The reefs in the northeastern Seychelles around
Mahe and Curieuse Islands were estimated to be
under medium and high threat. This is a potential
overestimation of threat.

Seas of the Middle East
1. Within the Gulf of Aqaba, reefs were estimated
to be approximately 70 percent under low threat
and 30 percent under high threat, largely from
coastal development. This is regarded as a potential
underestimate due to the threats posed by tourism
and shipping.
2. Along the coast of Yemen, most reefs were esti-
mated to be under high threat from overexploita-
tion. This is regarded as a potential overestimation
of threat, relative to other reefs in the region.

East Asia
The Spratly Islands have been classified predomi-
nantly as under low threat. This is probably an
underestimate due to blast fishing, fishing with
poisons, and shark fishing in that area.

Pacific Ocean
1. New Caledonia's reefs are estimated to be pre-
dominantly under low threat. This was noted to be
a potential underestimate for the reefs of the main
island due to deforestation and mining contribut-
ing to sedimentation.
2. The reefs of Christmas Island were classified as
being under high threat. Medium was suggested as
a more appropriate estimate of threat for this atoll.
3. Within Micronesia, the reefs of Majuro and
Kwajalein were classified as being under low threat,
which may be an underestimate of the threat from
coastal development activities.



Species Diversity

and Threats to

Coral Reefs

Work on mapping the distribution of coral reef
fish species is ongoing. This analysis draws on
work by the University of York and Ocean Voice
International, which mapped the ranges of approx-
imately 1,677 coral reef fish species from 29 fami-
lies. Species ranges were identified using a broad
array of data from more than 350 monographs, sci-
entific literature, museum records, and field collec-
tion. These data were entered as map points (over
33,000 points) and have been summarized into
equal-area grid cells (4,500 distinct areas) covering
approximately 50,000 square kilometers each. This
sample represents about 40 percent of all known
coral reef fishes.

The surveying and sampling of coral reef fish
species is uneven across the globe. For example, a
greater proportion of species have been sampled
in the Caribbean relative to the Red Sea, some
parts of Southeast Asia, and remote areas of the

Pacific. This sampling bias favors the inclusion of
well-sampled areas. As such, several areas likely to
have species diversity comparable to areas in the
Caribbean were not included in the analysis,
including the reefs off the coast of Vietnam, the
Spratly Islands, and parts of the Red Sea.

In order to reduce the sampling bias in the identifi-
cation of areas with high coral reef fish species
diversity, interpolated, smoothed species ranges
which summarize the number of species within an
approximately 400-kilometer radius were used.
Areas in the top 20 percent for species diversity
(with at least 210 coral reef fish spedes) were iden-
tified. These areas were then classified according to
the estimate of potential threat to coral reefs from
human activity (the Reefs at Risk indicator) for all
reefs within each area.


About the Authors:

Dirk Bryant is a Senior Associate in the WRI
Information Program and is the principal author of
The Last Frontier Forests: Ecosystems and Economies on the
Edge, the first global study on the status of frontier
forests-the large, ecologically intact, and relatively
undisturbed natural forests that still remain. He has
done extensive work on the development of environ-
mental indicators, including coastal pressure indicators,
and currently manages the Global Forest Watch pro-
ject-an independent, decentralized global monitoring
network developed as a collaborative effort among
local, national, regional and international partners.
Prior to joining WRI, Mr. Bryant conducted forest
ecology fieldwork in Belize for the let Propulsion
Laboratory, was employed as a naturalist for
Massachusetts Audubon, and served as a Peace Corps
fisheries volunteer in Senegal, West Africa. He has a
Masters degree in Environmental Management from
Duke University.

Lauretta Burke is a Senior Associate in the Information
Program of the World Resources Institute. Trained as an
environmental policy analyst and geographic informa-
tion systems (GIS) specialist, she focuses on the devel-
opment of improved information tools to support
environmentally sustainable development. Prior to
joining WRI, Ms. Burke implemented a GIS in Guyana
to support urban infrastructure rehabilitation planning;
managed the development of integrated GIS data sets
for 53 African countries; established a GIS for the
Environmental Studies program of the Central
European University; and performed analysis on the
impact of potential climate change on fisheries, wet-
lands and biological diversity for U.S. EPA's Global
Climate Change Program.

Dr. John William McManus is a marine ecologist spe-
cializing in fisheries, coral reefs, biogeography, commu-
nity ecology and coastal zone management. He com-
pleted his PhD in Biological Oceanography at the
University of Rhode Island. Dr. McManus is currently a
senior scientist at the International Center for Living
Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM). As current
leader of the Aquatic Environments Program, he super-
vises work on the following projects: ReefBase: The
Global Database on Coral Reefs and their Resources;
Population Interdependencies in the South China Sea
Ecosystem (PISCES); the Coastal Management Training
Project; and the Population, Consumption and
Environment Project.

Mark Spalding is the Marine Research Officer with the
World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and a research
associate with the Cambridge Coastal Research Unit,
University of Cambridge. He has been working on coral
reefs and particularly on reef mapping for the last five
years, and has recently completed a PhD thesis with a
particular focus on marine biodiversity mapping in the
tropics. He coordinates the coral reef mapping work for
ReefBase, and recently compiled and edited the World
Mangrove Atlas, a global review of the distribution of
mangrove forests.

R E E F S AT R I S K 53

1 Don McAllister, "Status of the World Ocean and Its
Biodiversity," Sea Wind 9, no. 4 (1995), 14.
2 Clive Wilkinson, "Coral Reefs Are Facing Widespread
Devastation: Can We Prevent This Through Sustainable
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Coral Reef Symposium 1 (Guam, 1993), 11-21.
3 Elizabeth Pennisi, "Brighter Prospects for the World's
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4 Robert Costanza et al., "The Value of the World's
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15, 1997), 256.
5 Gustav Paulay, "Diversity and Distribution of Reef
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6 David Malakoff, "Extinction on the High Seas,"
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7 Elliot Norse, ed., Global Marine Biological Diversity: A
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8 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
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9 Mark Spalding and A. M. Grenfell, "New Estimates of
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10 Clive Wilkinson and Robert Buddemeier, Global
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13 Stephen C. Jameson, John W McManus and Mark D.
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14 Donald Hinrichsen, "Requiem for Reefs?"
International Wildlife (March/April 1997), 8.
15 Herman Cesar, Economic Analysis of Indonesian Coral
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16 Charles Birkeland, ed., Life and Death of Coral Reefs
(New York: Chapman and Hall, 1997), 5.
17 William Fenical, "Marine Biodiversity and the
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18 Maragos, Crosby, and McManus, "Coral Reefs and
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19 Birkeland, Life and Death of Coral Reefs, 4.
20 Jameson, McManus, and Spalding, State of the Reefs, 24.
21 Herman Cesar, Economic Analysis of Indonesian Coral
Reefs (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1996).
22 Robert Richmond, "Coral Reef Resources: Pollution's
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23 Mats Bjork, Salim Mzee Mohammad, Marie
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24 Barbara Brown, "Disturbances to Reefs in Recent
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25 Global Environment Facility, The Hashemite Kingdom
of Jordan: Gulf of Aqaba Environmental Action Plan
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26 James Bohnsack, "The Impacts of Fishing on Coral
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27 Simon Jennings and Nicholas Polunin, "Impacts of
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28 Callum Roberts, "Effects of Fishing on the Ecosystem
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29 Pennisi, "Brighter Prospects."
30 Gomez, Alino, Yap, and Licuanan, "A Review of the
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31 Jorge Cortes, "A Reef Under Stress: A Decade of
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32 L. Talaue-McManus and K. P. N. Kesner, "Valuation of
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33 R. E. Johannes and M. Riepen, Environmental,
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34 Brown, "Disturbances to Reefs," 365.
35 C. M. Eaken, "Where Have all the Carbonates Gone?


A Model Comparison of Calcium Carbonate Budgets Before
and After the 1982-1983 El Nifo," Coral Reefs 15, no. 2 (1
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36 P. W Glynn, "Coral Reef Bleaching: Facts, Hypothesis
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37 Callum Roberts, Nigel Downing and Andrew Price,
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Reefs," in 1',...,.., 1'.' i of the Colloquium on Global Aspects of
Coral Reefs: Health, Hazards and History (University of Miami,
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38 UNEP/IUCN, Coral Reefs of the World. Volume 2: Indian
Ocean, Red Sea and Gulf (Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, 1988),
39 Brown, "Disturbances to Reefs," 373-4.
40 Brown, "Disturbances to Reefs," p. 376.
41 Joby Warrick, "Coral Reef off Florida Keys Caught in
Wave of Deadly Disease," Washington Post, February 9, 1997,
42 Rodney Salm, "The Status of Coral Reefs in the
Western Indian Ocean with Notes on Related Ecosystems,"
working paper prepared for the International Coral Reef
Initiative Workshop, Seychelles, March 1996.
43 Mark Spalding, Francois Blasco, and Colin Field, eds.,
World Mangrove Atlas (Okinawa: International Society for
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44 Wilkinson and Buddemeier, Global Climate Change,
40, 103.
45 S. C. Jameson, J. W McManus and M. M. Spalding,
State of the Reefs: Regional and Global Perspectives (Washington,
D.C.) I.C.RI., U.S. Department of State, 1995), 6-7.
46 Jorge Cortes, "Status of the Caribbean Coral Reefs of
Central America," in 1'...,..'. 1-' of the 8th International Coral
Reef Symposium (Balboa, Panama, Smithsonian Tropical
Research Institute, 1997), 339.
47 Rajasuriya, De Silva, and Ohman, "Coral Reefs of Sri
Lanka: Human Disturbance and Management Issues," Ambio
24, nos. 7-8 (December 1995), 428-29.
48 Arjan Rajasuriya, "Present Status of Coral Reefs in Sri
Lanka," in 1'1..'.. ,..i.., of the Colloquium on Global Aspects of
Coral Reefs: Health, Hazards and History (University of Miami,
1993), 411.
49 Callum Roberts, Nigel Downing, and Andrew Price,
"Oil on Troubled Waters: Impacts of the Gulf War on Coral
Reefs," in 1' ..'....i.... of the Colloquium on Global Aspects of Coral
Reefs: Health, Hazards and History (University of Miami, 1993),
50 Peter Weber, "Reviving Coral Reefs" in State of the
World 1993 (Washington, D.C.: WorldWatch Institute, 1993)

51 Clive Wilkinson, personal communication. Reporting
on results from the 1996 International Coral Reef
52 Ewald Lieske and Robert Myers, Coral Reef Fishes:
Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean 1II,. ie.nd the Red
Sea (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996), 7.
53 Cesar, Economic Analysis, 25.
54 Gomez, Alino, Yap, and Licuanan, "Philippine Reefs,"
55 J. E. Maragos and C. Payri, "The Status of Coral Reef
Habitats in the Insular South and East Pacific," in 1'..',.. i,,i
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56 Leon Zann, "The Status of Coral Reefs in South
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57 E. Dinerstein, D. M. Olson, D. J. Graham, A. L.
Webster, S. A. Primm, M. P. Bookbinder and G. Ledec, A
Conservation Assessment of the Terrestrial Ecoregions of Latin
America and the Caribbean (Washington, D.C.: World Bank
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58 Nels Johnson, Biodiversity in the Balance: Approaches to
Setting Geographic Conservation Priorities (Washington, D.C.:
Biodiversity Support Program, 1995), 9.
59 William Smith-Vaniz, James Bohnsack, and James
Williams, "Reef Fishes of the Florida Keys," in Our Living
Resources: A Report to the Nation on the Distribution, Abundance,
and Health of U.S. Plants, Animals and Ecosystems (U.S.
Department of Interior), 279.
60 UNEP/IUCN, Coral Reefs of the World. Volume 1,
61 Ibid., 251-52.
62 H. M. Guzman, J. B. C. Jackson, and E. Weil,
"Short-term Ecological Consequences of a Major Oil Spill on
Panamanian Subtidal Reef Corals," Coral Reefs 10 (1991),
63 H. M. Guzman and I. Holst, "Effects of Chronic
Oil-sediment Pollution on the Reproduction of the
Caribbean Reef Coral Siderastrea Sidera," Marine Pollution
Bulletin 26 (1993), 276-82.
64 H. M. Guzman, K. A. Burs, and J. B. C. Jackson,
"Injury, Regeneration and Growth of Caribbean Coral Reef
Communities After a Major Oil Spill in Panama," in Marine
Ecology Program Series 105 (1994), 231-41.
65 UNEP/IUCN, Coral Reefs of the World. Volume 1, 177.
66 K. Nakatani, A. Rajasuriya, A. Premaratne, and A. T.
White, eds., The Coastal Environmental Profile of Hikkaduwa, Sri
Lanka (Colombo, Sri Lanka: Coastal Resources Management
Project, 1994).
67 A. Rajasuriya and A. T. White, "Coral Reefs of Sri
Lanka: Review of Their Extent, Condition and Management


Status," Coastal Management 23 (1995), 77-90.
68 A. T. White, V. Barker, and G. Tantrigama, "Using
Integrated Coastal Management and Economics to Conserve
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(1997), 335-44.
69 Jameson, McManus, and Spalding, State of the Reefs, 10.
70 Stephen Jameson and David Smith, "Coral Reef
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71 Jameson, McManus, and Spalding, State of the Reefs, 10.
72 L. M. Chou, "The Status of Southeast Asian Coral
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73 UNEP/IUCN, Coral Reefs of the World. Volume 2,
74 J. W. McManus and M. C. Ablan, eds., ReefBase: A
Global Database on Coral Reefs and Their Resources. User's Guide.
Version 2.0 (Makati City, Philippines: International Center for
Living Marine Aquatic Resources, 1997).
75 P. J. Mumby, E. P. Green, A. J. Edwards, and C. D.
Clarke, Coral Reef Habitat Mapping: How Much Detail Can
Remote Sensing Provide? (in press).
76 D. L. B. Jupp, "Background and Extensions to Depth
Penetration Mapping in Shallow Coastal Waters," paper pre-
sented at the Symposium on Remote Sensing of the Coastal
Zone, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, 1988.
77 Mumby, Green, Edwards, and Clark, Coral Reef Habitat
78 D. Hopley and P. C. Catt, "The Use of Infrared Aerial
Photography for Monitoring Ecological Changes to Coral
Reef Flats on the Great Barrier Reef," in 1',.. ,,,..lm;- of the 6th
International Coral Reef Symposium (Townsville, Australia,
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79 J. W McManus et al., "Coral Reef Fishery Sampling
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(New York: CRC Lewis Publishers, 1996).
80 D. Hopley, Aerial Photography and Other Remote
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81 Mumby, Green, Edwards, and Clarke, Coral Reef
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82 Hopley and Catt, "Use of Infrared Aerial
83 Hopley, "Aerial Photography."
84 McManus et al., "Coral Reef Fishery Sampling

85 D. C. Rhoads, J. A. Muramoto, and R. Ward, A Review
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86 R. D. McCaughley, "The Sounds of Coral Reefs" Joint
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87 Rhoads, Muramoto, and Ward, Review of Sensors.
88 Charles H. Mazel, personal communication.
89 Alan White, personal communication.
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91 Birkeland, Life and Death of Coral Reefs, 428.
92 Butler, Burnett-Herkes, Barnes and Ward, "The
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93 Yasmin Arquize and Alan White, Tales from Tubbataha:
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94 Alan White and V. P. Palaganas, "Philippine
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95 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, World Bank,
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96 World Conservation Union (IUCN), "Parks for Life, A
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98 A. Charlotte de Fontaubert, David Downes, and Tundi
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99 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's
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