Protecting our Coral Reefs

The largest living structures on earth, coral reefs are habitat of particular significance due to their biodiversity, use by commercial, recreational and ecotourism interests, the goods and services provided, and their vulnerability to environmental stress and degradation.

The primary threats to corals are poor water quality, sedimentation, availability of uncolonized hard bottom substrate, and physical damage. Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable to environmental stress brought about by both natural conditions and those created by man.

NOAA Ocean Explorer

Coral Reefs in the Gulf of Mexico

How to Help Protect Our Coral Reefs


Coral Quick Facts

  • Coral reefs have been around for over 400 million years and are home to more kinds of life than any other marine environment
  • Coral Reefs form natural barriers that protect nearby shorelines from storm surge and erosion by absorbing the impact of wave and wind action.
  • The third longest barrier reef in the world runs from North Key Largo to the Dry Tortugas in the Florida Keys
  • A coral reef constantly grows new colonies of polyps on top of the skeletons of older ones and typically grow 1/2" per year
  • Coral reefs need clear, clean, nutrient-free waters to thrive
  • The delicate marine environment of a reef relies on the interaction of many different forms of life: hard and soft corals, algae, fish, sponges, crustaceans, worms, turtles, dolphins and other sealife.
  • Coral Reefs provide a source for the development of new medicines. They have been used in the treatment of cancer, HIV, cardiovascular diseases, and the porous limestone skeletons of coral have even been used for human bone grafts
  • Coral is extremely fragile - the slightest touch can destroy the living coral polyps