All About: Coral Reefs

By Rachel Oliver
For CNN
December 11, 2007

Story Highlights:
- Coral reefs are home to 25 percent of the world’s marine fish species
- UNEP: About 30 percent of world’s coral reefs are already damaged
- Coral reefs have been used to treat cancers, HIV, and cardiovascular diseases

CNN — Coral reefs are often referred to as the canaries of the ocean — because, like the canary in a mine, they give an indicator of the dangers that lie ahead. Judging by the state of coral reefs these days, if you happen to be a fish, it’s not looking good for you.

Coral reefs are home to 25 percent of the world’s marine fish species, and cover 1 percent of the Earth’s surface, making them the largest single living structure on Earth. They are now also one of the most endangered: As of the end of this year, for the first time in history coral reefs have been included on the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, or UNEP, around 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs are already damaged, some irreparably. At the present rate of destruction, by the year 2050, a breathtaking 70 percent of the world’s reefs will have disappeared, according to the Nature Conservancy.

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