Slideshow: A Dozen Coral Reef Animals
Take a look at some amazing species that inhabit the world's coral reefs
CORAL REEFS ARE THE WORLD'S most biologically diverse marine ecosystems. Covering less than 1 percent of the seafloor, they are the principal habitat for 25 percent of the ocean's species, including at least 800 coral species and more than 4,000 fish species. Reef denizens range from lovely sea fans, anemones and angelfish to economically valuable food sources such as groupers, snappers and lobsters. Reefs provide spawning and nursery grounds for many more commercially important sea creatures.
Valuable as they are--contributing more than $30 billion a year to human economies--coral reefs are surprisingly fragile. For decades, these habitats have been devastated by coastal development, pollution, soil erosion, invasive species, overfishing and destructive fishing practices. Today climate change poses the greatest threat of all.
An article in the August/September 2012 issue of National Wildlife, "Seeking Relief for Reefs," describes these threats as well as several efforts underway by scientists to help corals fight back. At stake is the survival of the animals shown here, along with countless other remarkable species that inhabit coral reefs worldwide.
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All images in this slideshow were donated through National Wildlife's Photo Contest.