CORAL REEFS ARE THE RAINFORESTS OF THE SEA, occupying less than 1% of the ocean floor but supporting nearly 25% of all marine species. A healthy reef is like a bustling city, teeming with fish and turtles, as well as a multitude of invertebrates. Shrimps, crabs, brittlestars and worms, cohabit with slugs, snails and squid. But these marine utopias are disappearing before our very eyes. In the past three decades alone, around 50% of corals have been lost, with the latest forecasts suggesting that over 90% of reefs will be gone by 2050. Some problems are local in scope, such as dynamite fishing, or pollution (e.g. from agricultural fertilisers or sunscreens that wash off peoples’ skin). Other problems are global, such as the threats of ocean acidification and warming.
To find out about the race to save coral reefs, read our feature story here.
Alex Mustard / A vibrant Caribbean coral reef with two Reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi) and Common sea fans (Gorgonia ventalina) and sea plumes (Pseudopterogorgia sp). Jardines de la Reina, Gardens of the Queen Nat...
Franco Banfi / Cuckoo wrasse (Labrus mixtus) male in front of Red sea fan, (Paramuricea clavata), Stupiste In dive site, Vis Island, Croatia, Adriatic Sea, Mediterranean
Inaki Relanzon / Whitsunday Islands, aerial view, Great Barrier Coral Reef, Queensland, Australia, October 2011.
Jordi Chias / Table coral reef in shallow waters, Gaafu Alifu Atoll, Maldives, Indian Ocean.
Alex Mustard / RF - Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) swimming over a coral reef. Whilst a Predatory bandcheek wrasse (Oxycheilinus digrammus) is hiding underneath the turtle to enable it to sneak closer...
Gary Bell/ Oceanwide / Blue-throat Wrasse (Notolabrus tetricus) female in coral reef, Governor Island Marine Reserve, Bicheno, Tasmania, Australia
Alex Mustard / View of a colony of Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) growing on a coral reef. The growth in this photo represents 12 year's growth since Hurrican Ivan in 2004, which levelled the colony. East End, Gr...
Alex Mustard / Hard corals (including Acropora sp., Platygyra sp. and Pocillopora spp.) growing in shallow water and reflected in the surface. Ras Umm Sid, Sharm El Sheikh, Sinai, Egypt. Red Sea
Jordi Chias / Schoolmaster snapper (Lutjanus apodus) school in the reef, Little Cayman island, Cayman Islands, Caribbean.
Alex Mustard / RF - Maldive anemonefish (Amphiprion nigripes) swimming above their host Magnificent sea anemone (Heteractis magnifica) on coral reef. Scalefin anthias (Pseudanthias squamipinnis) swimming in backgrou...
Jurgen Freund / Split level of snorkeler over coral reef on white sandy seabed contrasting with dry topside landscape in background, Komodo NP, Indonesia, August 2009. Model released.
Alex Mustard / Midnight snapper (Macolor macularis) shelters in a cavern on a coral reef with white soft corals (Scleronephthya sp.) and solderfish. Vavuu Atoll, Maldives. Indian Ocean
Pascal Kobeh / Four Pygmy seahorses (Hippocampus bargibanti) on a Seafan / Gorgonian (Muricella sp. ) including one or several pregnant males. New Caledonia, Pacific Ocean.
Alex Mustard / A Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) swims over a Grooved brain coral (Diploria labyrinthiformis). Jardines de la Reina, Gardens of the Queen National Park, Cuba. Caribbean Sea.
Gary Bell/ Oceanwide / Tropical island, One Tree Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia
Jordi Chias / Wave breaking over the reef, Table coral (Acropora) Safaga, Egypt, Red Sea.
Gary Bell/ Oceanwide / Sea Goldie (Pseudanthias squamipinnis) school in coral reef with feather stars, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia
Gary Bell/ Oceanwide / Temperate deep water reef with sponges, sea whips, and feather stars, Governor Island Marine Reserve, Bicheno, Tasmania, Australia
Alex Mustard / Soft corals (Scleronephthya corymbosa) inside a cavern within a coral reef. This species is typical of cave habitats. Uum Karerim, St Johns Reef. Egypt. Red Sea.
Alex Mustard / RF - Denise's pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus denise) looks out from its home in a sea fan (Annella sp.). Misool, Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia. Ceram Sea. Tropical West Pacific Ocean. (This image...
Alex Mustard / RF - Scissortail sergeants fish (Abudefduf sexfasciatus) sheltering beneath hard coral (Acropora sp.) in the evening on a coral reef, Red Sea. (This image may be licensed either as rights managed or...
Alex Mustard / RF - A vibrant Red Sea coral reef scene, with orange female Scalefin anthias fish (Pseudanthias squamipinnis) teeming over Fire coral (Millepora dichotoma) feeding on plankton brought to the reef by...
Jurgen Freund / Split level view of coral reef, Komodo National Park, Flores, Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia. Second Place in the Portfolio Award of the Terre Sauvage Nature Images Awards Competition 2015.
Jurgen Freund / Blue linkia starfish (Linckia laevigata) pair attached to the dead part of coral, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea
Linda Pitkin / Flower tree soft corals (Umbellulifera sp.), Triton Bay, near Kaimana, West Papua, Indonesia
Linda Pitkin / Masked butterflyfish (Chaetodon semilarvatus), pair sheltering under table coral (Acropora) Shark Reef to Jolande, Ras Mohammed National Park, Egypt, Red Sea.
Alex Mustard / Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) swimming through gorgonians on a coral reef. Bloody Bay Wall, Little Cayman, Cayman Islands. Caribbean Sea.
Alex Mustard / A shiver of Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi) swim over a coral reef with Common sea fans (Gorgonia ventalina) and sea plumes (Pseudopterogorgia sp). Jardines de la Reina, Gardens of the Que...
Alex Mustard / Brain coral (Platygyra daedalea) beneath a breaking storm wave, on a coral reef. Sha'ab Claudia, Fury Shoal, Egypt. Red Sea
Jordi Chias / Table coral (Acropora) with Giant clams (Tridacna gigas) Addu Atoll, Maldives, Indian Ocean.
Jurgen Freund / Healthy coral reef with cabbage corals and hard corals, Komodo NP, Indonesia.
David Fleetham / Split level view of Fijian reef with Alconarian and Gorgonian coral and Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), Fiji.
Alex Mustard / Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) swims along a coral reef with pink soft coral (Dendronepthya sp.). Ras Mohammed National Park, Sinai, Egypt. Red Sea.
Alex Mustard / A soft coral growing on a coral reed. East End, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, British West Indies. Caribbean Sea
Gary Bell/ Oceanwide / Cling Goby (Pleurosicya micheli) and coral polyps, Great Barrier Reef, Australia