The role of the coral reefs

12 June 2023 | Protect the environment

Important marine ecosystems, the role of coral reefs is invaluable because of the many services provided to human beings. They’re not only of a wonderful beauty, but are also an oasis where biodiversity is found in abundance, a coastal protection for the local population and bring of course an economic asset non negligible… How? It’s what we are going to explain in this article. 


Corals are forming rich marine ecosystems housing thousands of animal and vegetal species, they are different forms and colors and offer thus some unique landscapes of a beauty unparalleled. The role of coral reefs isn’t just to be beautiful! Indeed, with the rainforests, these are essential housing in terms of biodiversity. What’s more, the coral reefs are often called “the oceans rainforests” and for cause, these are animals present on the globe since million years, quiet witness of the evolution of our planet. They have adapted and still nowadays, are used as habitat to at least a fourth fishes of the world. 

Yet, according to a study of the UNESCO published in 2017 ( ), by “three decades, global warming should go beyond the capacity of the survival of coral reefs of the majority of ranked sites to the global patrimony. 

These are ecosystems that need to be protected first and fast, to participate in the save of marine biodiversity but also as an ally such as a captor of carbon dioxide. 

Carbon capture 

 The coral reefs, part of the ocean, participate in carbon dioxide absorption. 

 A carbon sink is a natural process of storage of carbon dioxide. Besides, the ocean is a carbon capture more important than forests! They are in the second position in terms of carbon absorption after the ocean. 

In fact, the ocean is the most important carbon sink on earth. The plankton, corals, fishes and imposing mammals like whales, absorb the carbon dioxide, allowing the Earth to regulate. 

Indeed, according to a search combining the FMI and Great Whale Conservancy “when a whale dies and fall in the deep ocean, it traps 33 tons of C02 in average, deleting this carbon of the atmosphere for centuries. As a comparison, a tree only absorbs up to 48 kilos of CO2 per year”. 

Nevertheless, the reefs destruction (that would generate a biodiversity loss and a collapse of the chain food) and the exploitation always more important of the sea floor reduce significantly the carbon absorption, of which we have however, really need. 

Coastal protection 

The coral reefs have a crucial role in the natural protection of coasts. They can also sometimes be associated with mangroves! Which are by the way, also a shelter and a rich source of biodiversity. 

Thus, these two ecosystems unknown but essential, mitigate the natural catastrophes that can touch the coastal zones. In fact, these are storms, tsunamis or cyclones again, that see their power decrease thanks to these marine environments. They preserve the fauna and the flora of a disaster of far greater magnitude if they were destroyed. In other terms, they are here to protect the coast against the erosion caused by storms. Against the rising water, they serve as a barrier. 

Many roles and services are given to coral reefs.  

Economic contribution 

Not only useful to the coast protection and living species that live there, coral reefs provide a considerable economic windfall in terms of food and touristic resources. The role of the coral reefs expands until preserving decent living conditions of people living near coasts by offering protection, food and sustainably incomes thanks to tourism. 

Indeed, besides the vital ecologic patrimony that represents coral reefs, the last estimations evoke a financial resource of more than 375 billion dollars in terms of services given by humanity and materials goods. This throughout fishing, note that about 10% of the sector of fishing depends on reefs. Thus, more than 500 millions of human beings depend on the good health of coral reefs, of which a colossal number of inhabitants of the southern countries.


Almost 1 billion of human beings live at least 100 kilometers from the coral reefs and can potentially live thanks to activities related to the reefs: fishing, trade and tourism. 

Indeed, fishes and reef shellfishes offer a food source and important proteins to local populations. In fact, island populations take advantage and depend on these resources for trade and food. In Southeast Asian countries, between 70 to 90% of fished fish come from reef zones. This is nothing but surprising because the coral triangle, located in Southeast Asia, houses nearly 30% of the totality of the world’s coral reefs.

The good gestion of coral reefs, that is to say a reasonable fishing, non invasive and destructive, actively participate to the survival of reefs themselves and to local populations by continuing to provide an alimentation source and an harmony at the aquatic level. Thus, about 10 tons of resources by km² can be fished by the local populations: fishes, shellfishes and other mollusks, without disturbing the balance of this fragile ecosystem. 


We just saw it, the coral reefs are part of the local economy in countries that house them. By their fishing sector, but also in the tourism sector. The sea floor, composed of coral reefs, offers some unique landscapes and also fauna and flora admirers. In fact, these majestic environments attract divers, freedivers or more simply curious swimmers to observe this aquatic world from the surface with a mask and a tuba. 

The local economies benefit from direct incomes. Thus, the tourism linked to corals contribute at about 30% of exportation revenues in about 20 countries. 

However, mass tourism can also have a negative impact or even destructor. Solar cream, trampling, flipper strokes, spills of chemical products related to the infrastructure constructions, plastic pollution… A great threat weighs on coral reefs. Here’s why, the gestion of sustainable tourism is primordial to ensure future incomes and the planetary balance. 

 Medical future 

As surprising as it may seem, human beings have a common genetic patrimony with a certain coral type. Also, our genetic material owns correspondence with us, human beings. ( )

Thus, they show a certain interest in the research of treatment against some cancers but also into cellular aging. 

For medical research in genetics and in cosmetics, here it’s about a knowledge to explore and perspectives of discovery. The role of coral reefs in the future scientific research is therefore promising! 


Corals represent a rich, curious and fascinating ecosystem. The role of coral reefs is essential in many points:

  •     The biodiversity because they welcome 25% of the marine biodiversity for only 0.2% of the occupied surface on the ocean;
  •     A carbon sink more important than forests;
  •     An economic and mousetrap windfall for local and neighboring populations. 
  •     A promising medical future. 

Yet, and we have surrounded it, coral reefs are majestic but fragile. Dangers that hover over the corals are many and we’re greatly talking about in the article treating causes of corals bleaching. 

The carbon dioxide collects more and more in the atmosphere, and the ocean and the forests are our best allies to help catch it. 

Greenoco, on his side, aims to help companies and particulars to decarbonize their website(s) in order to limit their carbon emissions. The use of the internet is nowadays unavoidable, but with a bit of effort from the companies and organizations can also reduce or limit their carbon footprint of their digital services. 

For this, we’re realizing carbon footprint audits of website, and identifying the optimizations allowing to reduce them from 10 to 70% depending on sites. And this can quickly go up to ten or even about hundred tons per year and per site. 

Contact us for a free quote or go on our platform.

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