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  The Caribbean region is a distinct Large Marine Ecosystem with characteristic physical and biological parameters. The region is bathed by warm water currents and sea temperatures vary little throughout the year. High biological productivity in coastal areas and low productivity offshore are characteristic features of the Caribbean. There are three main coastal habitats in the Caribbean: coral reefs, mangroves, and sea grass beds. All three habitats are areas of high productivity and important to island biological, fishery, and cultural resources. All three habitats are also in decline. Coral reefs are among the most diverse and beautiful natural environments. They occur only in warm and clear waters. Corals provide food and habitat for hundreds of species of fish, invertebrates, and plants. Biological factors, including predation, competition, and mutualism, and physical factors such as hurricanes combine to maintain the high diversity that characterizes coral reef ecosystems. Coral reefs are in decline worldwide. It is estimated that 10% of the world's reefs have been lost and that if current patterns continue, then by the year 2010 a further 30% will be lost. In response to this decline many countries are enacting protection laws, and designating parks to halt reef degradation. Caribbean coral reefs, on a region-wide, threat-by-threat basis. This chapter examines these threats, along with available information on condition and protection of reefs, in greater geographic detail for nine Caribbean sub-regions.

Many people in coastal communities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean depend on the natural resources provided by reefs for their livelihoods. Ensuring proper management of the reefs is vital for the economic and environmental health of the region, but there is a lack of quality information about the relationship between human activities and coral reef condition across the region. The Reefs at Risk in the Caribbean project is a response to this information need. The primary goal of the project is to raise awareness and improve management of coral reefs across the region through improving the knowledge base on the status of and threats to coral reefs. In collaboration with partner institutions across the region, we are implementing an analysis to link human activities with reef condition.

Red Sea Coral

Great Barrier Reef

Coral Reefs

Pacific Reefs



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