, in partnership with the , , Australian nonprofit , and the , has announced the launch of a global initiative aimed at saving coral reefs threatened by climate change, pollution, and overfishing.
With a phase-one budget of $2 million, the initiative will bring together many of the world's leading ocean, climate, and marine scientists and conservation practitioners to develop a list of the fifty coral reefs most in need of protection. Building on the work of Ocean Agency and the Global Change Institute, which have conducted a comprehensive global survey of coral reefs and coral bleaching (in partnership with Google and XL Catlin), the initiative will work to identify reefs that have the best chance of surviving climate change and contribute to the recovery of coral reef ecosystems once global temperatures have stabilized.
With the worst-ever global mass-bleaching event resulting from rising sea temperatures occurring last year, current projections indicate that 90 percent of the planet's coral reefs — which generate between $300 billion and $400 billion a year in economically important fish species and local economic benefits — will disappear by 2050. To prevent a complete collapse of the planet's coral reef systems, including the loss of thousands of species of fish and other important marine organisms, 50 Reefs will pursue a three-pronged approach — collaborations aimed at developing shared criteria for working with global data sets; identification of key science needs and regional solutions; and a worldwide awareness-raising campaign.
"Without coral reefs, we could lose up to a quarter of the world's marine biodiversity and hundreds of millions of the world's poorest people would lose their primary source of food and livelihoods," said Michael R. Bloomberg, the United Nations secretary-general's special envoy for cities and climate change. "We must not allow this to happen."
"What we already know about the future of our coral reefs is alarming: Without immediate action, we could lose this crucial ecosystem entirely within a few short decades," said Paul G. Allen. "What we don't yet know — the data gap leading scientists are seeking to fill through this initiative – is exactly where to focus critical conservation efforts to ensure the long-term survival of coral reef habitats."