Perfectly formed and harmoniously tuned to their environment, corals perform a unique and vital role in the ocean ecosystem. Coral reefs are home to 25% of all marine life and form the nurseries for about a quarter of the ocean's fish.
There are 798 coral species worldwide
Order: Scleractinia (stony) and Alcyonacea (soft)
Overall decline in habitat, some species critically endangered
There are 3 basic kinds of coral reefs: fringing reefs, barrier reefs, and atolls. Fringing reefs grow in shallow waters close to the coast. Barrier reefs are separated from land by a lagoon, growing parallel to the coast and forming a large and continuous reef. Atolls are ring-shaped reefs that develop near the sea surface on underwater islands or islands that sink, or subside.
Like their jelly fish and sea anemone relatives, coral polyps have stinging tentacles that they use to catch food. During the day, these tentacles are usually tucked away, out of reach of hungry fish and other marine animals. But at night they unfold to catch their prey, mainly plankton - small plants and animals floating in the currents.
The Jewel in the Crown
In the Indo-Pacific region is the coral triangle, a magical underwater tapestry created by the collision of tropical light, warm sea temperatures and oceanic currents. It is home to 75% of all known coral species.
Destructive fishing practices
One of the major threats to the health of corals around the world is climate change.
Other significant problems include loss of natural habitat and increases in human activity which disturb the natural structure of the corals.
Coral is a WWF priority species. WWF treats priority species as one of the most ecologically, economically and/or culturally important species on our planet. And so we are working to ensure such species can live and thrive in their natural habitats.
What is WWF doing?
Did you know?
The zooxanthellae algae which live symbiotically inside the coral polyp give the corals their amazing colours.
Properly managed coral reefs can yield an average 15 tonnes of fish and other seafood per sq km per year (source WRI)