Updating the extinction risk of corals in 2020

David Obura, Francoise Cabada-Blanco, Paul Pearce-Kelly, Emma Pettersson, Beth Polidoro

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Coral reefs hold a flagship role in the awareness and communication of the beauty and biodiversity that marine ecosystems harbour. Sadly, they also are a flagship for the magnifying threats human activities impose on nature, and the bleak fate of the natural world in the Anthropocene. In 2008, 1/3 of reef-building corals were assessed as threatened with extinction using the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species (RLS). Corals show the steepest decline in status (nearly 20%) among major taxonomic groups assessed on the RLS. As ecosystem engineers, the decline of reefbuilding coral species jeopardises ecosystem function of coral reefs, reliant biodiversity and ecosystem services they provide in the more than 100 countries that harbour them. Their flagship role thus combines both awe and vulnerability, raising their importance in influencing decisions at all levels, from the local, where they are found, to global. The extinction risk status of corals is being updated, to inform global commitments for the decade 2020- 2030. Updated datasets on coral species distributions, estimates of species and coral cover decline, trends in major threats, and projections of major threats (particularly thermal) in coming decades are being prepared on an online repository (using Github and R), to support a team of 120 assessors working remotely in taxonomic teams. Extinction risk for each coral species will be assessed against all five IUCN Red List Criteria, reviewed within and across teams to assure consistency, and by independent reviewers, prior to submission to IUCN for final review, acceptance and publication. The online tools developed will be applicable to red listing of any species groups, reducing the cost and logistics of red listing, and increasing the affordability, practicality and ability of the process to deal with large numbers of species. This will accelerate red listing assessments in coming decades. The capstone result will be released in a plenary policy event at the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS). This scientific presentation will focus on the primary findings and key trends affecting reef corals, the approach and tools developed and used, key variances among species, taxonomic groups and geographies in the results obtained, and a summary of the costs, feasibility and applicability of this approach for other taxa.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2022
Event15th International Coral Reef Symposium - Convention Centre, Bremen, Germany
Duration: 4 Jul 20228 Jul 2022


Conference15th International Coral Reef Symposium
Abbreviated titleICRS 2022
Internet address


  • Red List
  • reef-building corals
  • conservation


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