Tropical Coral Ecoregions

Laughing Bird Caye National Park Aerial view of coral reef from 6,000 ft. Belize. / ©: WWF-Canon / Anthony B. RATH
Laughing Bird Caye National Park Aerial view of coral reef from 6,000 ft. Belize.
© WWF-Canon / Anthony B. RATH
The greatest known species diversity of any marine ecosystem is found in coral reefs; their vertical growth and complexity provides numerous niches for different species to fill.
In addition to the calcium carbonate structure that the diverse corals species provide, numerous species of attached sponges and algae help to give the reefs their form. Tropical Coral reefs are fragile and diverse habitats that exist in sunlit waters along continental and island margins, with diversity greatest near the Equator.

Southeast Asian seas support over 450 species of scleractinian corals, the western Indian Ocean around 200, and the Caribbean only 50 species1). Variation in reef fish and non-coral invertebrate diversity follosw a similar biogeographic pattern2). Overall, the coral reef communities of Southeast Asian seas are the most diverse in the world, with the Sulu, Sulawesi, Banda, and Coral sea ecoregions being the most diverse on Earth3).

The largest barrier reef in the world is the Great Barrier Reef. Other world-class barrier reefs include the barrier reefs of New Caledonia, the Mesoamerican barrier reef, and the large barrier reefs of Fiji. The largest coral atoll complexes occur in the Maldive-Lakshadweep ecoregion of the central Indian Ocean and in Micronesia.
In this habitat are the following ecoregions:

Central Indo-Pacific
(217) Nansei Shoto
(218) Sulu-Sulawesi Seas
(219) Bismarck-Solomon Seas
(220) Banda-Flores Sea
(221) New Caledonia Barrier Reef
(222) Great Barrier Reef
(223) Lord Howe-Norfolk Islands Marine
(224) Palau Marine
(225) Andaman Sea

Eastern Indo-Pacific
(226) Tahitian Marine
(227) Hawaiian Marine
(228) Rapa Nui
(229) Fiji Barrier Reef

Western Indo-Pacific
(230) Maldives, Chagos, Lakshadweep Atolls
(231) Red Sea
(232) Arabian Sea
(233) East African Marine
(234) West Madagascar Marine

Western Tropical Atlantic
(235) Mesoamerican Reef
(236) Greater Antillean Marine
(237) Southern Caribbean Sea
(238) Northeast Brazil Shelf Marine


1) Vernon 1995
2) Lieske & Myers 1994, McAllister et al. 1994
3) Vernon 1995, Lieske & Myers 1994

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