Marine Conservation Biology Institute Marine Conservation Biology Institute
Marine Conservation Biology Institute
Protecting Marine Ecosystems

Coral Ecosystems                                 

A reef on Jarvis Island covered in coral (Montipora aequituberculata) which is now part of the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument. Image: Jim Maragos.

Coral reefs are spectacular, diverse, ecosystems that are home to thousands of different species. Coral reefs have been termed ‘the rainforests of the sea’ because they support a vast abundance and diversity of different plants and animals, more species than any other marine ecosystem, with more still being discovered.

Coral reefs are threatened by fishing, climate change, and development, and are having trouble all around the world. With sufficient effort and political will, most of the direct impacts to coral reefs can be alleviated.  

MCBI works to protect corals and coral ecosystems so that they will be around for generations to come. We have worked to establish large marine protected areas that will protect tropical coral reefs including Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Pacific Remote Islands National Monument in the Central Pacific, and Rose Atoll National Monument. We have also spent years studying deep-sea corals and advocating for their protection. Many people are less familiar with deep-sea corals, but these corals can be found in deep or cold water in many places around the world- some of the most spectacular deep-sea coral reefs in the US are found in Alaska. Even though deep-water corals have access to very little light and lack zooxanthellae (the symbiotic algae that allows shallow water corals to harevest energy from light) some deep-sea coral reefs can nearly rival shallow-water reefs in diversity. To learn more about deep–sea corals, check out The Status of Deep-Sea Corals in US Waters, the first report on where deep-sea corals are found in US waters, the threats to these unique habitats, and the management strategies being used to protect them.  


Our Work on Coral Ecosystems:

coralLife on the Edge - Exploring Deep Ocean Habitats.

coralCentral Pacific Marine National Monuments - Protecting our most pristine coral reefs.

urchinPapahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument - Ensuring effective management of the coral reefs of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.


coralFinding Coral - An expedition to study deep water corals in Brittish Columbia and document threats to their well being.


polypDeep-Sea Corals - Seeking to protect deep-sea coral ecosystems.

coralStatus of Deep-sea Corals in US Waters - The first report on where deep sea corals are found in US waters, the threats to these unique habitats, and the management strategies being used to protect them.

coralsDeep-Sea Coral Scientist Statement - Over 1400 scientists worldwide call for deep-sea coral conservation.


coralDeep-Sea Coral Policy - Protecting US deep-sea corals through Legislation






Coral Programs:

Central Pacific Marine National Monuments

Deep-Sea Corals

Deep-Sea Coral Policy

Deep-Sea Coral Scientist Statement

Finding Corals

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument