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Coral and Coral Reef

Hope For The Future: Coral Reef Management

Although coral reefs may be suffering a variety of ills, there is still hope. In the 1980s and 1990s, many countries began to realize the importance of coral reefs and to act accordingly. In response to requests from marine scientists for increased monitoring of reef condition, along with calls from environmental activists for enhanced reef conservation, several countries developed management plans for their reef areas.

In some cases, governments applied lessons learned elsewhere. For example, a small island north of Venezuela—Bonaire, in the Netherlands Antilles—established a marine park 1979. The park boundaries completely surround the island and ordinances provide some level of protection for all marine resources from the high water mark down to 190 ft (60 m). Bonaire's reefs are now some of the healthiest in the Caribbean, even though they too have been affected at times by reduced water quality, coral disease outbreaks, declining spiny sea urchin populations, and storm damage.

Recent establishment of similar management zones with enforced limitations and controls on marine resource exploitation has resulted in significant improvement in the health of some reef systems. However, it remains to be seen if more restrictive measures may be necessary. In particular, it may be imperative to improve effluent water quality in areas of high population density, such as the Florida Keys.

Global efforts to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse-gas emissions, such as the Kyoto protocols (signed by most industrial nations, not including the United States), may provide eventual relief to coral reefs. However, because reefs are already suffering severely from global warming and atmospheric CO2 is predicted to continue rising for some time, the outlook for continuing climatic damage to the world's coral reefs a serious concern to scientists.

Coral reefs are wonderfully diverse and complex ecosystems. They are also vulnerable to damage from a wide range of human influences. Stewardship of coral reefs must improve or these magnificent ecosystems and their many species will become rarer and more endangered than they already are—and many will disappear altogether.



Clarke, Aurthur C. Coast of Coral. New York: iBooks, 2002. Dubinsky, Z., ed. Coral Reefs. Ecosystems of the World, no. 25. New York: Elsevier, 1991.

Wolanski, Eric, ed. Oceanographic Processes of Coral Reefs: Physical and Biological Links in the Great Barrier Reef. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2000.


Kleypas, Joan A., et al. "Geochemical Consequences of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide on Coral Reefs." Science (April 2, 1999):118–120.

Pennisi, Elizabeth. "Survey Confirms Coral Reefs Are in Peril." Science (September 6, 2002): 1622–1623.


Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State. "Coral Bleaching, Coral Mortality, and Global Climate Change: Report presented by Rafe Pomerance, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Environment and Development, to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force." March 5, 1999. (cited October 25, 2002). <http://www. state.gov/www/global/global_issues/coral_reefs/990305_coralreef_rpt.html>

Clay Harris


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—Dwelling in or on the ocean bottom.


—Composed of calcite, or calcium carbonate (CaCO3), a common mineral.


—A mutually beneficial interaction, or symbiosis, between two different species.


—An individual animal in a coral colony.


—Unable to move about.


—The single-celled, dinoflagellate algae that live in a mutualistic symbiosis with corals.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Condensation to CoshCoral and Coral Reef - The Builders: Corals And Coralline Algae, Biology Of Corals, Coral Reef Distribution, Environmental Setting And Requirements