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Shallow Corals

Shallow corals prefer warm, clear water, like that found along the southern tip of Florida, in which to build reefs. Based on current estimates, shallow water coral reefs occupy approximately 110,000 square miles of the sea floor. If all of the world's shallow water coral reefs were placed side-by-side, they would only occupy an area slightly larger than the state of Texas; however, no other limited ecosystem area boasts a wider variety of life forms. For this abundant diversity, reefs are sometimes called rainforests of the sea.

The Value of Shallow Coral

  • As habitat–Coral reefs serve as habitat for many commercially important species targeted for fishing. The fish that grow and live on coral reefs are a significant food source for more than a billion people worldwide.
  • As recreation—Reef-based recreation such as diving and fishing provides income for local economies and leisure to millions.
  • As shoreline protection—Healthy coral reefs have rough surfaces and complex structures that dissipate much of the force of incoming waves. This buffers shorelines from currents, waves, and storms, helping to prevent loss of life, property damage, and erosion.
  • As medicine—Creatures found in coral ecosystems are important sources of new medicines being developed treat cancer, arthritis, asthma, ulcers, human bacterial infections, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases.

How we protect shallow coral

NOAA works to conserve coral ecosystems. Based on the individual needs of the varying ecosystems and communities, NOAA supports healthy, resilient coral reefs by addressing the impacts of climate change, certain fishing practices, and pollution.