Facts and Information on Coral

Frequently Asked Questions

What is coral?

Corals are living animals made up of tiny polyps that combine by the thousands into colonies to form coral reefs. A single reef can have hundreds of different colonies of corals. Called the Rainforests of the Sea, coral reefs are the most biodiverse ecosystem in our ocean. They comprise less than 2% of the ocean floor but are home to 25% of all marine life, providing a habitat for thousands of species and food for 500 million people around the world. Coral reefs offer natural coastal protection in areas frequently impacted by hurricanes and tropical storms; and serve as an important source for new medicinal remedies, with many drugs now being developed as possible cures for cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, viruses, and other diseases.

Why is coral dying?

Corals are in dying in our oceans at a fast rate due to several factors. Climate change and warmer temperatures cause coral bleaching. Pollutants like garbage, plastic and agricultural run-offs dump toxins into our oceans that kill reefs. Urban development ruins natural habitats and marine nurseries important for the ecosystem. Destructive fishing techniques and overfishing depletes the natural lifecycle and marine community balance of the reef.  Stressed coral can be susceptible to coral disease as well.

While easily damaged, corals are difficult to regrow. Corals grow at a very slow clip at just a ¼-inch to 1-inch per year. And coral communities typically take at least 15 to 25 years to recover from mass mortality events such as destructive cyclones and mass bleaching events. Roughly 50% of the world’s corals have been lost in the last 30 years.

What is coral bleaching?

Coral bleaching is a global crisis that is caused when a coral gets sick from warm temperature changes by more than 1-2 degrees Celsius. The coral becomes stressed in the warmer water and will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to lose all of its vibrant color and turn completely white. The algae is crucial for the health of the coral and provides up to 90% of the coral's energy. Without it, the coral will begin to starve and eventually die.

Why is it important to save coral reefs?

Here are a few reasons why coral reefs have a huge impact on our planet:

  • BIODIVERSITY: Coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystems and home to a quarter of all marine species on the planet. Scientists estimate that there may be up to 8 million undiscovered species of organisms living in and around reefs.
  • FOOD SOURCE: Coral provides a food source for more than 500 million people. Coral reefs provide spawning grounds for fishes and areas for the development of juveniles before they migrate to the open sea. Many species of fish, which we eat, will significantly lower in numbers without coral reef habitats.
  • INCOME: Coral reefs provide a livelihood for millions of individuals and goods and services worth an estimated $375 billion each year.  The United Nations estimates the value of coral reefs to be more than $1 trillion globally.
  • PROTECTION: Coral reefs protect coastlines from erosion and the damaging effects of high impact waves during tropical storms, hurricanes and tsunamis.
  • MEDICINE: Coral reef organisms are used in the treatment of diseases such as cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, viruses, and more. Long coral skeleton also serve for human bone grafts due to its close similarity to our bones nature.


University researchers have been identifying heat resilient Super Corals, breeding them and introducing them into the ocean to stop the decline of the coral reef ecosystem. Researchers are creating Super Corals to cope with hotter and longer heat waves to stop the decline of the coral reef ecosystem.

How do we support Super Coral and save our coral reefs?

Everyone can help save our coral reefs by raising awareness on social media, promoting efforts to rebuild our coral reefs, changing our destructive habits and donating to Super Coral research. In a bid to stop coral bleaching, MSC Foundation is partnering with universities, marine biologists, environmentalists and the Bahamian government to research and develop Super Corals including the relocation of 400 corals and plans for a coral nursery at the Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, MSC’s new eco-friendly private island in The Bahamas. Join the challenge to support Super Coral #SuperCoralPlay



Coral gardening is where small fragments of corals are grown in either land based nurseries of specialized structures in the sea. These nurseries provide ideal conditions for corals to grow rapidly. Once they reach a certain size the coral can be harvested. In Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, some of the harvested corals are left in the nursery to grow more coral, whilst the remainder is placed back into the ocean using a variety of techniques designed to best suit the local seascape.

Climate Resilient Coral

Reefs are damaged across the world. Planting Super Coral that can withstand hotter water without bleaching is the goal. This is why research and finding these resilient corals are so important. Scientists are identifying corals with the strongest genotype which are able to withstand predicted environmental stress such as elevated temperatures and using this knowledge to increase the biomass of tolerant corals back onto the reef.

Super Coral


There are many different species and genotypes of coral that can be called Super Coral. Further research aims at understanding how they may function as a productive reef, producing a second-generation of sturdier corals that can eventually spawn, releasing their offspring into the water to create new colonies of heat-resistant Super Coral as far as the tide will carry them.

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