Coral reefs at risk

Across the globe, reefs that have proven resilient for thousands of years are in serious decline, degraded by over fishing, pollution, coastal development and warming ocean waters. And threats to coral are only expected to intensify as a result of climate change and ocean acidification due to greenhouse gases. Scientists predict that coral is headed for extinction, possibly within this century.

In this March 16, 2012 photo released by the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, a healthy coral grows in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Some scientists predict that coral is headed for extinction, possibly within this century. (AP Photo/Puntacana Ecological Foundation, Victor Manuel Galvan)

In this May 30, 2012 photo released by the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, a diver works on a coral reef restoration program in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, live coral coverage in the Caribbean is down to an average of just 8 percent, from 50 percent in the 1970s. Caribbean islands ranging from Bonaire to the U.S. Virgin Islands, conservationists are rearing and planting fast-growing coral species to try and turn things around by “seeding” reefs. (AP Photo/Puntacana Ecological Foundation, Victor Manuel Galvan)

In this May 30, 2012 photo released by the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, a diver works on a coral reef restoration program in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, live coral coverage in the Caribbean is down to an average of just 8 percent, from 50 percent in the 1970s. Caribbean islands ranging from Bonaire to the U.S. Virgin Islands, conservationists are rearing and planting fast-growing coral species to try and turn things around by “seeding” reefs. (AP Photo/Puntacana Ecological Foundation, Victor Manuel Galvan)

In this May 30, 2012 photo released by the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, healthy coral protect a school of fish in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. In the Dominican Republic, in the thriving tourist town of Punta Cana, the Puntacana CQ Ecological Foundation has planted some 1,200 fragments of Acropora coral, a genus which includes staghorn and elkhorn. Advocates say the reef restoration work, focused on the region’s fast-growing but threatened staghorn and elkhorn coral species, can boost rates of recovery and improve the outlook for coral. (AP Photo/Puntacana Ecological Foundation, Victor Manuel Galvan)

In this March 16, 2012 photo released by the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, coral grows in a coral reef nursery as part of reef restoration work in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Advocates say the reef restoration work, focused on the region’s fast-growing but threatened staghorn and elkhorn coral species, can boost rates of recovery and improve the outlook for coral. The efforts will never resurrect the vibrant reefs of 50 years ago, they acknowledge, but they believe they can help preserve some of a reef’s functionality and beauty. (AP Photo/Puntacana Ecological Foundation, Victor Manuel Galvan)

In this April 13, 2012 photo released by The Nature Conservancy, coral grows in a coral reef nursery as part of a Caribbean coral reef restoration program off Cane Bay, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Across the globe, reefs that have proven resilient for thousands of years are in serious decline, degraded by over fishing, pollution, coastal development and warming ocean waters. And threats to coral are only expected to intensify as a result of climate change and ocean acidification due to greenhouse gases. (AP Photo/The Nature Conservancy, Kemit-Amon Lewis)

In this Oct. 18, 2011 released by the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, a healthy coral grows in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The tropical islands' reefs protect fragile coastlines by absorbing energy from waves during hurricanes and normal conditions. In the face of decline of coral reefs, some coral specialists and conservationists say passive inaction would be a grave mistake. (AP Photo/Puntacana Ecological Foundation, Victor Manuel Galvan)

In this Oct. 18, 2011 released by the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, a healthy coral grows in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The tropical islands' reefs protect fragile coastlines by absorbing energy from waves during hurricanes and normal conditions. In the face of decline of coral reefs, some coral specialists and conservationists say passive inaction would be a grave mistake. (AP Photo/Puntacana Ecological Foundation, Victor Manuel Galvan)