Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 09 Issue 01

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Volume 09, No. 1
Pages 83 - 99


Coral Reefs and Biodiversity: A Critical and Threatened Relationship

By J.E. Maragos, M.P. Crosby , and J.W. McManus 
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The importance of coral reef ecosystems may be seen in their numerous ecological, aesthetic, economic, and cultural functions. Atoll and barrier reef islanders recognize that healthy reefs are essential for the support, creation, and repair of the coral islands on which they live. Coral reefs also protect coastlines from shoreline erosion and serve as a living pantry for the subsistence harvest and consumption of many reef organisms. The cycle of reef accretion and erosion maintains beaches and provides habitat for seagrasses and mangroves. Coral reefs are important recreational resources for most of the worlds people having the privilege of living near them. In the modern era, coral reefs passes and channels provide safe navigation channels for boats, and harbors are often sighted on reefs because they provide natural protection from heavy wave action. Coral reefs are fast becoming the main attraction for visitors to many tropical island and coastal destinations. Coral reefs are also the favorite sites of many governments and developers for construction materials, and reef rock is mined in many countries to provide armor stone and building materials. Few aspects of these activities, especially modern uses, are beneficial to reefs, and scientists and other reef users are beginning to realize that coral reefs are fragile and are now threatened in many areas in the world from chronic anthropogenic reef disturbance. The ability of coral reef ecosystems to exist in balanced harmony with other naturally occurring competing/limiting physicochemical and biological agents has been severely challenged in the last several decades by the dramatically increased negative and synergistic impacts from poorly managed anthropogenic activities. Globally, scientists are now working together and with other groups to promote assessment, monitoring, other research, protection, and restoration of coral reefs. Establishment of coral reef management initiatives at the local community, national, and regional levels are essential for long-term sustainable use and conservation of these critically important habitats. The focus of these initiatives should be on assisting culturally, economically, and politically diverse peoples around the world in their development of integrated coastal zone management with emphasis on local community involvement and leadership.


Maragos, J.E., M.P. Crosby, and J.W. McManus. 1996. Coral reefs and biodiversity: A critical and threatened relationship. Oceanography 9(1):83–99, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.1996.31.

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