Coral reefs

Summary

  • More than 2,000 species of coral have been identified and described. jump to section
  • Most coral reefs are found in the tropics and subtropics. jump to section
  • More than 200 coral species are listed as threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List. Although recent research suggests this figure could be an overestimate. jump to section
  • Corals face multiple threats, including mass bleaching, overfishing, pollution of local waters, and ocean acidification. jump to section
  • Mass bleaching events are becoming more common and severe. jump to section
  • The time between bleaching events is getting shorter – often too short for corals to recover from. jump to section
  • Large bleaching events used to be reserved for warm El Niño years. Now they even occur in La Niña years, the ‘cold’ phase of the ENSO cycle. jump to section
  • Some corals die immediately when exposed to warming. Others bleach, then either recover or die. jump to section
  • Some corals are much more resilient to warming than others. jump to section
  • It’s unclear how corals will respond to ocean acidification over the next century. jump to section
  • More experiments of coral responses at lower levels of warming and acidification are needed. jump to section

Number of coral species

How many coral species are there?

Our oceans are home to many types of coral – some shallow, warm water species; others cold, deep-water species. But just how many species of coral are there?

As with any other group of wildlife, it’s hard to say with complete certainty: this is because there is always the possibility that there are coral species that we’re yet to discover. New animal species are unearthed every year.

What we can say is how many species have been identified, named and described. These are listed by the IUCN Red List and updated every year.

In the chart we see the number of described species across a range of taxonomic groups. Due to the issue of finding and counting every species, these are likely to be underestimates.

We see that there are more than 2,000 described coral species in the world.

Hannah Ritchie, Our World in Data, 7 May 2021. Full article.

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