10 Effects of Coral Reef Destruction on the Environment

There have been adverse effects of coral reef destruction on the environment and our actions in the next fifty will be critical to life forms on earth as this period will set the magnitude of the extinction wave that is presently building.

What is expected of us, or what have we failed to do, will resonate through time, affecting every future inhabitant of this planet? Coral Reefs over time have suffered abrupt destruction from both anthropogenic and natural factors and its effects are seen on the environment.

Coral reefs are the most biologically diverse of marine ecosystems and are arguably the most deeply threatened by humanity.

The rate and extent of reef destruction in the last two decades are unprecedented, with up to 20% of coral cover lost worldwide largely as a result of climate change, over-exploitation, and pollution.

The coral reef consists of two separate words that are coral and reefs.  Corals are invertebrates that specifically live in the deep water marine ecosystem.

They occupy coral polyps known as reefs while the reefs are rocks or ridges known as coral polyps that lie underwater formed by the dead skeleton of corals made up of calcium carbonate.

Therefore, Coral Reef is defined as an underwater ecosystem. It is distinguished as an ecosystem in deep water where reef-building corals are present.

Coral reefs of the world are usually located in tropical oceans and seas. A few examples of coral reefs in the world are:

  • Belize Barrier Reef found in Belize
  • Great Barrier Reef (found in the Coral Sea, Coast of Queensland, Australia)
  • Apo Reef (found in Mindoro Strait in the Philippines)
  • New Caledonian Barrier Reef (in New Caledonia in the South Pacific)
  • Florida Keys (found in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, United States)
  • Red Sea Coral Reef (found in Egypt, Israel, Eritrea, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia)
  • Amazon Reef (found in the Atlantic Ocean, the coast of northern Brazil, and French Guiana), etc.
Bleaching corals. West New Britain, Papua New Guinea. 15 May 2010

Effects of Coral Reef Destruction on the Environment

The destruction of coral reefs is negatively impacting the ecosystem of the Earth. The effects of coral reef destruction on the environment are mentioned and discussed below.

  • Reduction in Oxygen
  • Loss of Habitat for Marine Organisms
  • Loss of Medical Research
  • Loss of Coastlines
  • Loss of Biodiversity
  • Ecological Disaster
  • Less Fish in the Ocean
  • Domination by Algae and Jellyfish
  • Fewer Tourists
  • Effect on the Fishing Industry

1. Reduction in Oxygen

For the ocean to be healthy coral reefs are needed, and a healthy ocean is thus needed for a healthy atmosphere. About 50-80% of our oxygen is produced in our oceans by plankton and photosynthesizing bacteria.

This oxygen is not only absorbed by marine life, but also by humans as it is expelled into the atmosphere.

2. Loss of Habitat for Marine Organisms

Marine organisms are one of the major recipients to the effects of coral reef destruction.  Organisms in the water are losing their habitats due to coral bleaching and mining.

If coral reefs disappear, essential food, shelter and spawning grounds for fish and other marine organisms would cease to exist, and biodiversity would greatly suffer as a consequence.

Marine food webs would be altered, and many economically important species would disappear. About 25% of the ocean’s fish depend on healthy coral reefs.

3. Loss of Medical Research

Medical breakthrough is a well-known impact we envisaged as a result of this menace. Marine organisms that live within reefs provide us with new treatments for human ailments and diseases.

Researchers have been able to develop medicines to treat all sorts of diseases by studying corals’ natural chemical defenses to predators. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, arthritis, and heart disease.

4. Loss of Coastlines

The most significant impact that would occur if coral reefs were to disappear is the negative impact on coastlines. The coastlines are becoming vulnerable to the damaging effects of catastrophic events due to the destruction of coral reefs.  

Shorelines are battered by waves and extreme weather events and become susceptible to erosion. Erosion of the coast, combined with sea-level rise due to climate change, will push coastal communities from their homes and further inland.

5. Loss of Biodiversity

As a result of habitat destruction which leads to habitat loss, many species are unable to survive in the Warmer Ocean and ultimately leading to marine biodiversity loss.

Healthy reefs help thousands of different corals, fish, and marine mammals, but bleached reefs lose their ability to support as many species.

Approximately 75% of reef fish species declined in abundance, and 50% declined to less than half of their original numbers.

6. Ecological Disaster

An ecological disaster is defined as a catastrophic event in the natural environment that is due to human activity. Which severely impacts events that overwhelm the coping resources of a local community.

Therefore, ecological collapse or ecological disaster may result from the destruction of coral reefs, this is because the ocean may not store carbon anymore.

7. Less Fish in the Ocean

Coral reefs provide a quarter of marine species with habitat and food as they are known as “the rainforests of the sea”.

Essential food, shelter, and spawning grounds for fish and other marine organisms would cease to exist, and biodiversity would greatly suffer as a consequence due to the disappearance of coral reefs.

Marine food webs would be destroyed, and many economically important species would disappear.  And to a large extent affect the economy due to the loss of fish species living in coral reefs.

8. Domination by Algae and Jellyfish

 As skeletal structures of limestone reefs break away, microbial life would absorb energy from the sun, producing algae.

The algae will in turn attract jellyfish, who graze on the algae and microbes. This leads to some scientists suggesting that the seafloor might become dominated by algae

9. Fewer Tourists

Due to the presence of Coral reefs, smaller economies can also be sustained through tourism, and attract tourists to regions where the coral reefs exist.

Without reefs to visit, there will be a reduction in tourist numbers, and local businesses that depend on year-round tourists will be highly affected. Restaurants, hoteliers, street vendors, and tour guides would also all be affected.

10. Effect on the Fishing Industry

This will have a domino effect, as fishing industries would be adversely affected. The absence of corals would have a catastrophic effect on hundreds of millions of people around the world, who would lose their main source of food and income.

According to the United Nations, about one billion people depend on coral reefs for their food and livelihoods. The shortage of seafood in diets would also result in more pressure on land-based farming and aquaculture industries to make up for this shortage.


Coral Reefs destruction has become very common and detrimental to the environment. As it has led to several damage and disruptions in the environmental structure.

This has emanated as a result of both human-induced factors and natural l factors. Therefore, the need to critically look into practices and activities that protects the reef is of utmost importance so as to safeguard our environment. And keep it safe for the unborn.


Environmental Consultant at Environment Go! | + posts

Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.

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