Coral Triangle: Wikis


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The Coral Triangle is a geographical term referring to the tropical marine waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste that contain at least 500 species of reef-building corals in each ecoregion. [1] This region encompasses portions of two biogeographic regions: the Indonesian-Philippines Region, and the Far Southwestern Pacific Region. [2] The Coral Triangle is considered to be the global epicenter of marine biodiversity, [3] and a global priority for conservation. [4] For this reason, WWF considers the region as a top priority for marine conservation, and the organization is addressing the threats it faces through its Coral Triangle Program,[5] launched in 2007.



More than 3,000 species of fish live in the Coral Triangle, including the largest fish - the whale shark, and the coelacanth. It also provides habitat to six out of the world’s of seven marine turtle species.

Reef building corals [1]

  • The Coral Triangle comprises the highest coral diversity in the world: 76% (605) of the world’s coral species (798).
  • The highest coral diversity is found in the Bird’s Head Peninsula of Indonesian Papua, which hosts 574 species (95% of the Coral Triangle, and 72% of the world’s total). Within the Bird’s Head Peninsula, Raja Ampat is the world’s coral diversity bull’s eye with 553 species.
  • The Coral Triangle has 15 regionally endemic coral species, and shares 41 regional endemic species with Asia. Regional centers of endemism in the Coral Triangle include the Sulu Sea and North Lesser Sunda Islands/Savu Sea in Indonesia, and Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea.

Coral Reef fishes[6]

  • The Coral Triangle has the highest diversity of coral reef fishes in the world: 37% (2,228) of the world’s coral reef fish species (6,000), and 56% of the coral reef fishes in the Indo-Pacific region (4,050).
  • 8% (235 species) of the coral reef fishes in the Coral Triangle are endemic or locally restricted species. Within the Coral Triangle, four areas have particularly high levels of endemism (Lesser Sunda Islands, Papua New Guinea – Solomon Islands, Bird’s Head Peninsula, and Central Philippines).

The reasons provided for the Coral Triangle’s high levels of biodiversity include:

  • A theory that the region is a major center of origin for coral reef species, from where species originated and dispersed to other locations in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Overlapping or accumulation of faunas from the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
  • Geological processes, with coral reef species evolving and persisting during low sea level events, demonstrating the resilient and enduring nature of these reefs during prior periods of climate change.

The large area and extraordinary range of habitats and environmental conditions have played a major role in maintaining the staggering biodiversity of the Coral Triangle.[7]


The biodiversity and natural productivity of the Coral Triangle are under threat from poor marine management (including coastal development, and overfishing and destructive fishing), lack of political will, poverty, a high market demand and disregard for rare and threatened species, and climate change. An estimated 120 million people live within the Coral Triangle, of which approximately 2.25 million are fishers who depend on healthy seas to make a living. These threats are putting at risk livelihoods, economies and future market supplies for species such as tuna.[8] Studies have highlighted the alarming decline of coral cover in this region.[9]

Climate change

Climate change in the Coral Triangle is already having a big impact on coastal ecosystems by warming, acidifying and rising seas. Coral Triangle reefs have experienced severe mass coral bleaching and mortality events as temperatures have periodically soared.

The annual, maximum and minimum temperatures of the oceans surrounding the coastal areas of the Coral Triangle are warming significantly (0.09-0.12 ° C per decade) and are projected to increase by 1-4°C toward the end of this century.

Increases of more than 2°C will eliminate most coral-dominated reef systems. These splendid reef systems will disappear if these events continue to increase in intensity and frequency.

Climate change impacts overview:

   * Coral Triangle seas will be warmer by 1-4°C
   * Acidic seas will drive reef collapse
   * Longer and more intense floods and droughts
   * Sea level rise of 0.5, 1.0 or 6 metres
   * More intense cyclones and typhoons
   * More annual climate variability in the Coral Triangle

While coastal ecosystems are facing enormous pressures from both local and global factors, many areas within ecological resilience and are therefore among the most likely to survive the challenging times ahead.

Stabilising atmospheric carbon dioxide at or below 450 parts per million (ppm) is absolutely essential if Coral Triangle countries are to meet their objective of retaining coastal ecosystems and allowing people to prosper in the coastal areas of the Coral Triangle.

However, climate changes in the Coral Triangle ecosystems are inevitable due to the lag effects of on coastal and marine systems and associated terrestrial habitats. [10]


The Coral Triangle is the subject of high-level conservation efforts by the region's governments, nature conservation organizations such as WWF, The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International, and donor agencies such as USAID. In May 2009, the six Coral Triangle Governments launched a Regional Plan of Action for the next decade adopted at the World Ocean Conference in Manado, Indonesia. This is the most detailed plan for ocean conservation ever seen and the fruit of an ambitious partnership—the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security founded in December 2007 in Bali.[11]


The primary criteria used to delineate the Coral Triangle were:

  • High species biodiversity (more than 500 coral species, high biodiversity of reef fishes, foraminifera, fungid corals, and stomatopods) and habitat diversity
  • Oceanography (currents)

There is considerable overlap between the boundaries of the Coral Triangle that are based primarily on high coral biodiversity (more than 500 species), and the boundaries based on the area of greatest biodiversity for coral reef fishes.[12]


  1. ^ a b Veron et al. Unpublished data
  2. ^ Veron, J.E.N. 1995. Corals in space and time: biogeography and evolution of the Scleractinia. UNSW Press, Sydney, Australia: xiii + 321 pp.
  3. ^ Allen, G. R. 2007 Conservation hotspots of biodiversity and endemism for Indo-Pacific coral reef fishes. Aquatic Conserv: Mar. Freshw. Ecosyst. DOI: 10.1002/aqc.880
  4. ^ Briggs, J. C. 2005a. The marine East Indies: diversity and speciation. Journal of Biogeography 32: 1517-1522
  5. ^ WWF Coral Triangle Program
  6. ^ Allen 2007, unpublished data
  7. ^ The Nature Conservancy. Coral Triangle Facts, Figures, and Calculations:Part II: Patterns of Biodiversity and Endemism, Dec 16, 2008
  8. ^ WWF - Problems in the Coral Triangle
  9. ^ Peñaflor et al. 2009. Sea-surface temperature and thermal stress in the Coral Triangle over the past two decades. Coral Reefs 28:4. pp 841-850
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ The Nature Conservancy. 2004. Delineating the Coral Triangle, its ecoregions and functional seascapes. Report on an expert workshop, held at the Southeast Asia Center for Marine Protected Areas, Bali, Indonesia, (April 30 - May 2, 2003), Version 1.1 (June 2004)

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