The Top 5 Countries with the Most Coral Reef

  Country Reef Area
km2 (square kilometres)
Percentage of World Total Endangered
1 Republic of Indonesia 51,020 17.95% Yes
2 Australia 48,960 17.22% No
3 Republic of the Philippines 25,060 8.81% Yes
4 France 14,280 5.02% No
5 Papua New Guinea 13,840 4.87% No
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 Facts
  1. Coral reefs are one of the most diverse habitats on the planet. Although they occupy less than 0.1% of the world's oceans, they harbour between one and three million different species and represent some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth, providing critical habitat to approximately 25% of marine species. In addition, these ecosystems provide economic benefits through tourism and fisheries. One recent estimate valued the annual net economic benefits of the world's coral reefs at $30 billion. However, human activities including development in coastal areas, over-fishing, and pollution have contributed to a global loss of over 10% of these valuable ecosystems. An additional 15% have been lost due to warming of the surface ocean, and climate change will further contribute to coral reef degradation in the decades ahead. (a.)
  2. The United States is the number one consumer of live corals and fish for the marine aquarium trade, and of coral skeletons and other dried animals for the curio and jewellery markets. American consumers are unknowingly contributing to the decline and degradation of coral reefs. As a major importer and world leader in both trade and coral reef conservation efforts, though, the U.S. can play a critical role in shaping conservation strategies, consumer awareness, and international trade policies. (b.)
  3. "Coral reef" is a term used to describe both shallow limestone formations in tropical and subtropical waters and the biological communities that create them. Originally feared by mariners as a hazard to navigation, coral reefs are now valued for their beauty, biodiversity, and the products and services they provide to human society. (b.)
  4. Authors Drs. Robert W. Buddemeier, Joan A. Kleypas, and Richard B. Aronson found in their report "Coral Reefs and Global Climate Change" that:
    1. Increases in ocean temperatures associated with global climate change will increase the number of coral bleaching episodes.
    2. Increases in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel combustion will drive changes in surface ocean chemistry.
    3. The effects of global climate change will combine with more localized stresses to further degrade coral reef ecosystems.
    4. Multiple environmental management strategies, from local to global, will be necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the world's coral reef ecosystems.
  5. In northern Jamaica, it is estimated that almost all of the reefs are dead or severely degraded from overfishing and coastal runoff. Fish stocks have declined to a point where local fishers are now straining fish larvae out of the sea for fish soup. In the Philippines, degraded reefs and fish populations have led to an 18% decrease in the amount of protein in the average diet. Human impacts are also occurring on U.S. reefs, oftentimes for use as luxury items. For example, in Hawaii at Honaunau, the top ten aquarium fish species have decreased by 59% over the last 20 years, and at Kona the most popular aquarium fish show declines in abundance from 38 to 57%. Even under ideal conditions, it would take more than a lifetime for some reefs to recover. Asia and the Pacific coral reef system, which includes the world's two largest coral formations (the Great Barrier Reef and the New Caledonia Barrier Reef) and has the highest level of coral diversity in the world, has seen its extent of coral cover decline from 40 per cent in the early 1980s to approximately 20 per cent by 2003, partly owing to global-scale stressors such as climate change. (b.), (c.).
Top 5 facts sources:
  1. Buddemeier, Robert W., Kleypas, Joan A., & Aronson, Richard B. (2004) Coral reefs & Global Climate Change: Potential Contributions of Climate Change to Stresses on Coral Reef Ecosystems. Retrieved December, 2010.
  2. Best, B., Bornbusch, A. (2001). Global Trade and Consumer Choices: Coral Reefs in Crisis. Retrieved December, 2010.
  3. United Nations Environment Programme. (2009). "State of Biodiversity in Asia and the Pacific." Retrieved December, 2010.
  4. United Nations Environment Programme. (2001). World Atlas of Coral Reefs. Retrieved December, 2010.
Tags: Water, Threatened & Endangered Species, Top 5 Most

Sources:  World Atlas of Coral Reefs. Image source: Wikimedia Commons (Copyrighted free use).

List Notes: Data is for the year 2009.
Countries with the Most Coral Reef

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