US places 20 coral species under protection

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has listed 20 coral species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Climate change, the ecological effects of fishing and poor land-use practices are contributing to damaged coral reefs around the world.

All 20 species will be listed as threatened and none as endangered. Fifteen of the newly listed species occur in the Indo-Pacific and five in the Caribbean.

Coral reefs are critical to the health of marine ecosystems and provide shoreline protection for coast communities and a habitat for a variety of species, including commercially important fish. These benefits are lost when coral are degraded – a phenomenon that is occurring at an alarming pace and scale around the worldwide.

According to the NOAA, coral reefs have declined by up to 90 per cent for some individual species. The most serious threats to coral ecosystems come from the impacts related to climate change, which includes rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidification and diseases, as well as the negative effects of fishing and poor land-use practices.

The NOAA will work with partners to develop mitigation measures and recovery plans for the newly listed corals, including watershed management measures to counter land-based sediment pollution and restoration efforts, such as transplanting corals grown in nurseries to help recover degraded reefs.

 

Photo credit: NOAA’s National Ocean Service, flickr/Creative Commons

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