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Conserving Our Treasures Under the Sea

Covering only about one-tenth of one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs provide habitat for more than 25 percent of marine species. This astounding biodiversity rivals that of the rainforests. Additionally, reefs serve as natural breakwaters protecting shorelines from erosion and storm damage and support commercial and recreational fisheries—an estimated annual value of $200 million nationwide.

Despite their great economic and recreational value, coral reefs are gravely threatened by climate change, impacts of fishing activities, and land-based sources of pollution, among other threats. Once coral reefs are damaged, they are less able to sustain the many creatures that inhabit them and cannot adequately support fisheries. With little marine life to see beneath the water, snorkelers and scuba-diving tourists will spend their tourism dollars elsewhere—a move that can hurt local businesses. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Investments in coastal conservation on a national scale are really making a difference.

Saving Our Underwater Rainforests

NOAA has an active role in the management, research, and restoration of coral and sponge ecosystems. To address the complex nature of the threats that face shallow and deep-sea coral, we work with NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program to protect these valuable ecosystems. Making the most of limited resources and achieving maximum improvements to coral reef health requires us to prioritize on-the-ground and in-the-water actions that address multiple threats to coral reef ecosystems.

Rescuing Our Reefs

The restoration of coral reefs is vital since so many are severely threatened and can take many years to regenerate. NOAA’s Restoration Center works with the Coral Reef Conservation Program and the Damage, Assessment, Remediation and Restoration Program to help threatened coral species recover. NOAA and partners reattach corals piece by piece with cement, hammer, and nails to degraded or damaged reefs. This replenishes the reefs and allows fish populations that use the reefs for shelter, food, and breeding sites to thrive and grow.