How Many Known Species of Coral Are There and How Threatened Are They?
How many known species of coral are there in the entire world? This is one question kids tend to ask that scientists are still having a hard time providing a good answer to. While mapping out coral reef species may have been an easy task in the past, at the current rate that corals are becoming endangered and even disappear completely all around the world, it can be hard to keep track of how many are left at any given time. The recent bleaching events at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia was a clear example of just how fast corals are disappearing, and experts estimate the frequency of these bleaching events will just increase over time.
The Estimated Number of Known Coral Species
Researchers believe there used to be many thousands of stony and soft coral species worldwide. However, with the imminent changes brought about by global warming, many coral reef species have already disappeared. It is estimated that there are around 2,500 species of corals remaining in the ocean, most of them located in the waters of Southeast Asia, Oceania, the Caribbean, Hawaii and the Red Sea. Heavy traffic locations like the Caribbean have had the most to suffer as a result of human involvement, as there are currently only 60 types of corals remaining in the Caribbean, which is only half the number of species that were present in 1970.
Areas with the Greatest Variety of Coral Reef Species
Since reef-building corals and most soft corals are confined to the balanced waters of tropical and subtropical regions, there are a limited number of locations where one can find a high diversity of coral reef species. The most well-known areas where reef-building and soft coral species are abundant are the Red Sea, which is home to more than 300 species, the Great Barrier Reef – housing about 411 types of corals – and the waters of the Philippines, where more than 500 species of corals are known to be found.
Threatened and Endangered Coral Species
Even though there are several thousand coral species in existence today, out of the 22 species that are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, 20 were only added very recently. This surge in endangered corals is due to the massive bleaching events occurring worldwide due to global warming, water pollution, overfishing and extensive tourism. 83 species were initially proposed to be added to the endangered species list, and scientists have little good news to offer regarding the future prospects of saving them. Ultimately, even scientists are wondering: how many known species of coral are there right now and are there any means of stopping the impending extinction of coral reef habitats that is estimated to happen before the end of this century?