Leaf Litter

In this Issue

Coral reefs face mounting threats, but they have a tremendous capacity to recover.

By Amy Nelson

Article Index

Envision a coral reef.

What do you see? A dazzling, vivid, underwater rainforest teeming with aquatic life? If so, it’s not surprising. Coral reefs are, after all, among the most complex ecosystems on the planet, and home to more than 4,000 species of fish, 700 species of coral, and thousands of other plants and animals. Known for their brilliant colors, which come from tiny algae living in coral tissues, coral reefs are indeed spectacular. But they are also in danger.

The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network estimates that a quarter of the world’s reefs are already gone or severely damaged. According to the 2011 World Resources Institute publication Reefs at Risk Revisited, 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs are threatened  by a combination stressors. These include the usual suspects, like disease, development, watershed-based pollution…but also overfishing, destructive fishing and damage from ships.

Add rising ocean temperatures and acidification associated with global warming, and…it’s clear that coral reefs are in trouble. But there is hope. Reefs are incredibly resilient, and show a tremendous capacity to rebound from severe damage.

What is being done to safeguard our remaining reefs and turnaround their global decline?  Are people tapping into the traditional knowledge of people in reef dependent communities? How, exactly, does one restore a coral reef, and who is out there doing it?  Join us as we dive into the fascinating subject of coral reef restoration.

We begin by chatting with a man who is actively engaged in the restoration of threatened coral species and reef habitats. Dr. Diego Lirman of the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science talks us through the process of coral reef restoration.

We also learn about the biodiversity –and vulnerability-of coral reefs from Sant Chair of Marine Science at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Dr. Nancy Knowlton. As co-leader of the Census of Coral Reefs project, part of the recently completed international Census of Marine Life. Nancy shares her insight and hopes for the future of coral.

Leaf Litter’s Non-Profit Spotlight shines on two organizations hard at work-on the ground and underwater- to protect and enhance Earth’s coral reefs. We’re honored to profile the Coral Reef Alliance and OneReef.  We also share Fascinating Facts About Coral and a variety of Resources  for you to explore.

A seal sighting near New York City, the transformation of a formerly dry Santa Fe River …find out about all this and more exciting news from Biohabitats. What are your thoughts about coral reef restoration? Share them on our blog, Rhizome, or make a comment on our Facebook page.  If you want to reference a specific article, be sure to include it in your post. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this issue of Leaf Litter.

Got an idea?

Contact The Editor

Sign up for Leaf Litter

Browse by topic

Browse by year