Around 14% of corals have been lost since 2009 due to global warming, but some show resilience, says report

Posted on 06 October 2021

Around 14% of corals have been lost since 2009 due to global warming, but some show resilience, says report
The 6th Edition of the Status of Corals of the World 2020 Report, published by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, shows that we have lost approximately 14% of the world’s coral since 2009 due to large-scale coral bleaching events.

However, the report also found that despite the severe rate and extent of coral decline, many coral reefs remain resilient and can recover under the right conditions, offering hope for the long-term health of coral reefs if immediate measures are implemented to curb future warming.

Carol Phua, Coral Reef Rescue Initiative Lead at WWF said:

“Coral reefs are in serious trouble from climate change, including pollution from many other human activities. The loss of corals will have devastating impacts not only on ocean life, but on the millions of people who rely on these valuable ecosystems for food and livelihoods. Coral reefs provide a perfect example as to why ocean health matters and why a healthy and resilient ocean is critical to achieving the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement. The good news is that some areas are not as exposed to climate change and with the right interventions, can continue to be productive. We need to protect and effectively manage these places, in collaboration with communities, for their potential to serve as ‘seed banks’ from which the rest of the world’s corals can regenerate in the future.

“This will involve working with coral reef-dependent communities in countries where climate-resilient reefs are found by building resilience to environmental, economic, and social stresses through diversified skills and sustainable and equitable economic opportunities. To achieve this, we need to join up the climate and ocean finance agendas and drive significant private and public investments in nature-based solutions that can bring benefits to both people and nature. 

“We need world leaders to recognize the links between biodiversity loss and climate change, and the significant role that ocean ecosystems such as coral reefs play in climate solutions.”

Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Coral Reef Rescue Initiative Chief Scientific Advisor and Professor of Marine Studies at the University of Queensland said:

“The science has never been clearer. We need to address climate change to avoid its devastating impacts on important ecosystems such as coral reefs and the benefits they provide to people. We need to stabilize planetary temperature at or as close as possible to 1.5°C. And while we do that, we need to conserve reef areas where conditions are not changing as quickly—reefs that are less exposed to global warming and will play an important role in reviving other reefs.

“The global community needs to come together to safeguard these climate-resilient reefs with measurable actions by integrating ocean and climate action and ambition to ensure that millions of people will continue to benefit from nature.” 


About the Coral Reef Rescue Initiative:

To help efforts to safeguard globally-significant coral reefs and the benefits they provide against climate change and other threats, WWF is leading the Coral Reef Rescue Initiative (CRRI), a global consortium of conservation and development organizations including Blue Ventures, CARE International, Rare, University of Queensland, Vulcan Inc., and WCS. Together, the partners are working with governments and communities in implementing a collaborative strategy that aims to improve the conservation and effective management of climate-resilient coral reefs while strengthening community resilience through diversified skills and livelihood opportunities to help build their economic capacity in the face of a rapidly changing climate.

About the Status of Corals of the World 2020 Report:

The Status of Coral Reefs of the World report is the largest analysis of coral reef health ever undertaken, published by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN). This sixth edition is the first since 2008, and the first based on the quantitative analysis of a global dataset compiled from raw monitoring data contributed by more than 300 members of the network. The global dataset spanned more than 40 years from 1978 to 2019, and consisted of almost 2 million observations from more than 12,000 sites in 73 reef-bearing countries around the world.

Coral bleaching due to temperature rise, Indo-Pacific Ocean.
Coral bleaching due to temperature rise, Indo-Pacific Ocean.
© WWF / Jürgen FREUND