What is Reefs at Risk and why is it unique?
Reefs at Risk was the first global, quantitative assessment of threats to coral reefs ever conducted. Released in 1998, Reefs at Risk confirmed that coral reefs are seriously threatened in most parts of the world, clearly identified the human activities contributing to this threat, and called for global action.
Given the mass appeal and impact of the Reefs at Risk approach, the time is right to revisit the global analysis and provide the information needed to help organise a global response. Answers are critically needed to questions such as:
- Have our collective conservation efforts over the past ten years had an impact?
- Has there been any improvement in reef health? Where?
- Where are the most critical threats today? What is their origin?
- What is the value of healthy coral reef ecosystems?
- What economic losses will result if reefs degrade?
- How will the threat to coral reefs from pollution, development and climate change impact national economies?
Reefs at Risk used an innovative approach to locate and map coral reefs at highest risk, helping to guide conservation and management efforts. It assessed the threats from coastal development, marine pollution, overexploitation of marine resources and watershed-based pollution.
What has been the impact of Reefs at Risk?
Thanks to its unique overview and distinct communication style, Reefs at Risk clearly established the link between human activities and coral reef condition. As such, it had an instant and global impact in the media, stimulating public awareness and interest, political debate, policy development, and scientific discourse. The publication remains widely quoted in both scientific literature and the mass media.
Reefs at Risk highlighted the links between human activity and coral reef condition, and showed decision-makers, politicians and the public where energy and resources must focus to reduce critical threats. Most importantly, the assessment served to spark an increase in research and conservation investments, and has been used to set regional and local priorities.
At the regional level, it led to more detailed analyses, like Reefs at Risk in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. Produced in local languages, the maps and analyses provided a more detailed look into threat levels, examined the value of coral reef ecosystem goods and services, and estimated the potential losses from degradation. Reefs at Risk also led to local-level threat analyses in Belize and Sabah, Malaysia, and aided the development of legislation restricting coastal development near coral reefs in Sabah.
Why is Reefs at Risk needed again?
Since the 1998 release of the pivotal Reefs at Risk, the world’s coral reefs have dramatically changed. Despite promising research, conservation and policy efforts, many prompted by Reefs at Risk, we have witnessed an unprecedented decline in these fragile ecosystems.
Wide tracts have been assaulted by a range of destructive forces, from powerful hurricanes and tsunamis, to increased pollution, coral bleaching and disease. In 1998, the world witnessed the most intense coral bleaching event ever recorded, driving widespread coral death in many parts of the globe. Coral bleaching was not factored in to the original Reefs at Risk model, and yet it now represents one of the most pressing threats to coral reefs worldwide.
The world is more ready than ever to take action. Climate change and its effects have risen high on national agendas; natural disasters have called attention to the critical link between marine ecosystems and the safety of our shorelines and coastal populations; and countries have begun to link ecosystem health with poverty and are looking at their coral reef assets as a source of wealth and long-term prosperity. However, more information is needed to guide that action.
Ten years have passed since the original R@R analysis. Two regional analyses, Reefs at Risk in the Caribbean and South East Asia, have been completed using higher resolution and improved modeling methods. Now we want to take this experience back to the global level.
- The scale, quality and detail of many global data sets, such as coral reef locations, has radically improved;
- Our understanding of threats to coral reefs and ability to do detailed modeling has improved;
- Climate-related threats, such as coral bleaching and ocean acidification must be included.
This updated, more comprehensive, high resolution information is needed to raise awareness and guide interventions.
What will Reefs at Risk +10 do?
The World Resources Institute (WRI) and International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN) are leading a world-class collaboration in a global, map-based analysis of threats to the world’s coral reefs. This update of the influential 1998 analysis will provide a detailed examination of human pressures on coral reefs, implications for reef condition, and projections of associated economic impacts in coastal communities. In partnership with institutions such as the Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), Reef Check, The World Fish Center, The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), and others, ICRAN and WRI seek to raise public awareness to the location and severity of threats to coral reefs, and catalyze targeted, responsible, and informed decisions that protect coral reefs and the broad range of benefits they provide to people.
Reefs at Risk +10 will show decision-makers, politicians and the public where to focus energy and resources to address critical threats, and will inform bilateral, regional and international bodies as they seek ways to help coordinate and finance these efforts. It will support conservation priority setting, constructive public and private alliances, and better private and public policy, as well as highlighting the value of investment in effective coastal management.
The analysis will be crucial for galvanizing support for coral reef issues and influencing the coral reef management and conservation agenda at the local, national, regional and global levels within government, donors, UN agencies and NGOs. To achieve our goal and objectives, we have organized the project around three complementary strategies:
- Strategic Engagement of Constituency Networks, Key Organizations and Individuals.Targeted, High-quality Information and Analysis.
The project relies on a broad partnership to assure the accuracy of results and high quality of products, as well as to design the products to meet the needs of end users.
- Targeted, High-Quality Information and Analysis.
Since the last global analysis, significant improvements have been made in the quantity, quality and level of detail of the datasets that will comprise the Reefs at Risk analysis. The project’s core partnership will focus on the completion of six main components: Collection, consolidation and integration of data; Spatial threat analysis; Climate and coral bleaching vulnerability analysis; Comparative threat analysis, 1998 – 2008; Economic valuation of coral reefs and the potential losses resulting from degradation; and a Social vulnerability analysis.
- Comprehensive, Innovative Communications.
The Reefs at Risk+10 communication strategy is designed to move the reef threats discussion into the mainstream by using existing mechanisms, networks, and partnerships, and through global events and programmes of the International Year of the Reef 2008. The strategy will also take advantage of new information technologies and is designed to effectively reach more general, non-technical audiences. The approach will raise awareness through wide dissemination of data sets, model results, summary reports, economic valuations, and educational posters. It will provide readily accessible information from the Reefs at Risk analysis for input into the relevant international, regional and national policy making and environmental convention fora, and to inform policy makers.
Who should I contact for more information?
The Reefs at Risk +10 project has just begun. ICRAN and WRI are building the partnership needed to execute this vital, results-focused endeavor. We invite your feedback, comments and participation. For further information on Reefs at Risk +10, our goals, strategy and partnership, and how you can become a part of this innovative and exciting undertaking, please contact:
Senior Associate, WRI
+1 (202) 729-7774
+44 (0)122 327 7314