Coral Reef Ecosystems

The importance of coral reef ecosystems

Coral reefs are a vital marine ecosystem. In the North Oriental Mindoro MPA, they provide habitats, food and storm protection. 

Background image © Christian Manalo

Coral reefs: shelter, protection and food

Coral reefs – like those in North Oriental Mindoro in the Philippines – are one of Nature’s most ingenious and impressive creations. They provide habitats for countless marine species, and are quite literally the building blocks of ocean ecosystems. They are also a vital resource for coastal communities, as they can provide a sustainable source of protein. As major tourist attractions, reefs bring in revenue and support sustainable livelihoods. In the Philippines, some of the most important and pristine surviving reefs are found in and around the North Oriental Mindoro Marine Protected Area (MPA).


[Watch] The fascinating lives of corals

As you watch, immerse yourself in the mesmerizing beauty of vibrant ecosystems, where tropical fish glide by. Travel to diverse locations, witness abundant marine life thriving within coral reefs, and discover the urgent work of scientists protecting these invaluable ecosystems. Unravel the fascinating lives of corals, their importance to Earth’s marine life, and the need for sustainable solutions. Join us on this remarkable journey to unveil the wonders of global coral reefs and contribute to their preservation for generations to come.

Credit: California academy of sciences

© PJ Aristorenas


What is a coral reef?

Despite their small size, polyps, the little creatures that make up coral reefs, play a significant role in building underwater limestone structures over many years. These structures form the basis of the entire ecosystem and provide a range of ecosystem services for humans, including the provision of food, protection of beaches and lives, as well as spaces for play, leisure and tourism.

As these reefs grow and evolve, they become an ecosystem in their own right, providing anchoring points, homes, and hiding places for a diverse range of species, both large and small.

North Oriental Mindoro is home to some of the most spectacular coral reefs in the world, renowned for their breathtaking biodiversity. While polyps may be tiny, the coral reefs they build are vital to the health of our oceans and the many species that call them home.

The importance of coral reef ecosystems


Coral reef ecosystems are vital to ocean health

Each coral reef is an ecosystem in its own right. The largest of them,  the Great Barrier Reef in Australia,  can be seen from space due to their vast size, but it’s only on close inspection that their true value can be appreciated, in terms of the multitude of other species that live on, near or in them. The Philippines have an estimated 26 000km2 of coral reefs, with over 400 species of hard coral (12 of them endemic) and upwards of 900 fish species.

Did you know?

The Verde Island Passage is recognised as the global centre of marine biodiversity, with more documented species that anywhere else on the planet!


The importance of coral reefs

Intact reefs are extremely effective at absorbing wave energy, reducing the destructive impact of storms. The calmer zones (between reef and land) also allow for the establishment of seagrass and mangroves.

Even as reefs slowly erode over time, they still provide sand for beaches which is extremely important for tourism and coastal protection. The economic value to humans of coral reefs in the Philippines (in terms of fishing, ecotourism and storm protection) has been estimated at billions of dollars per year.

Reefs also benefit people who may live thousands of kilometres away, as a significant percentage of modern drugs are derived from coral reefs and their associated ecosystems.

© Pedro Magsino

Did you know?

Over 50% of coral reefs in the Philippines are classed as “overfished”.

© Ram Yoro


Why are coral reefs at risk?

Coral reefs are able to withstand high-intensity waves to some degree, but they are unable to withstand a combination of stressors all at once, particularly without sufficient periods of recovery in between.

The majority of these stressors are man-made, such as destructive practices like overfishing, dynamite fishing, and coral harvesting for souvenirs or building materials, as well as nutrient enrichment from land.

In addition, coral reefs are adversely affected by global climate change. When sea temperatures rise, corals can become bleached, which can lead to their death if the high temperatures persist for extended periods.


How can we protect coral reefs?

Designating reefs as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) provides them with an important degree of protection. MPAs mitigate threats such as overfishing and help to attract tourists – thriving reef-based ecotourism economies provide more sustainable livelihoods, and means that local communities are invested in the health of the reefs.

Did you know?

95% of coral reefs in the Philippines are under threat.

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