chapter  1
26 Pages

Coral reefs

It has been estimated that tropical coral reefs occupy 284,300 sq km of the planet’s surface.1 This is less than 0.1 per cent of the total surface area.2 Despite this relative scarcity, in practical and economic terms, the contribution of these reefs is great. Ecosystem values range from the provision of protein, coastal protection from wave energy, land formation where coral rubble and sand has helped to raise land above sea level enabling human habitation, and acting as a natural wonder, attracting tourists from around the globe.3 To those in need, reefs may also bring relief from medical conditions, as scientists explore new organic chemicals present in the coral reef ecosystem.4 Indeed, estimates suggest that coral reefs contribute the equivalent of US$375 billion per year as part of a global total ecosystem value of US$33,268 billion per year.5 Therefore, based on these estimates, coral reefs contribute 1.13 per cent of the annual total.