What is Coral?

Home to more than 25 percent of all marine life, coral reefs are among the oldest and most fragile ecosystems in the world. Known for the colorful fish and marine life that live within them, the reefs themselves are actually made up of tiny animals called polyps, which create cup-like limestone skeletons around themselves using calcium from seawater. Reefs form as generation after generation of coral polyps live, build, and die, creating vast strongholds for themselves and many other plants and animals.

Over one-quarter of all marine species depend on healthy coral reefs. Humans also depend on coral reefs. These marine ecosystems are the primary source of food and income for millions of people, a vast repository of valuable chemical compounds and medicines, and a natural wave barrier that protect beaches and coastlines from waves and storms.

Today, around the world, coral reefs and the abundant life they support are in jeopardy. Coral Reefs are the Tropical rainforests of the sea and without protection they will continue to be depleted and destroyed. In recent years, more than 11% of the world's reefs have been lost, with another 16% severely damaged during the El Niņo event in 1998. Up to 32% of coral reefs may be destroyed by human activities in the next thirty years if we do not take action now.

Coral reefs may take hundreds, even thousands, of years to form, typically growing as slowly as 5 millimeters and no more than 20 centimeters per year. But what has taken centuries to build can be destroyed instantly.