2018 has been declared the third international year of the reef. IRD is rising to this occasion, and helping the public to discover partnered research on this essential theme, during events organised this year in mainland and overseas France. You can also discover all the resources available - films, photos, book, exhibition, scientific news - in the dedicated space www.ird.fr/recifs-coralliens.

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Coral reefs are genuine oases of life in the middle of the oceans. They cover just 0.2% of the surface of the seas, yet they are home to over 25% of global marine biodiversity, or 60,000 species described to date. They are some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, directly or indirectly sustaining 500 million people, including 40 million fishers.

The coral reefs are suffering the impact of human activity (introduction of invasive species, pollution, fishing), as well as the effects of climate change (ocean warming and acidification). Today, 20% of the coral reefs have disappeared, and 25% are in severe danger.

The International Year of the Reef

It is therefore urgent that we protect these marine ecosystems, as emphasised by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”, adopted by the United Nations in September 2015.

It is in this context that the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) declared 2018 the “third international year of the reef. Many actions are proposed throughout the year, to boost global awareness and promote partnerships between actors (decision-makers, businesses, scientists and civil society), to improve the management, protection and conservation of coral reefs.

Colonie de polypes

© IRD/ Germain Boussarie

Colonie de polypes

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Did you know?

Reef-building corals are amazing organisms, bringing together three kingdoms of nature: animal, plant and mineral. The coral polyp is an animal that lives in symbiosis with plants (microscopic algae). These algae provide up to 90% of the coral’s energy, through photosynthesis which produces the sugar and oxygen required for their growth. Polyps also feed on plankton, thanks to their tentacles, generally live in colonies and produce the limestone mineral skeleton that forms the reefs. In return, the coral provides the algae with nutrients and CO2, which are necessary for photosynthesis.

To find out more: check out IRD’s “Journey to the heart of coral reefs exhibition.

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A scientific priority for the IRD

Studying the coral reefs is a scientific priority for the IRD. It mobilises researchers from different disciplines (biology, ecology, genetics, chemistry, geochemistry, biogeochemistry, remote detection, paleoclimatology, anthropology, geography, etc.) in mainland and overseas France, and in the countries of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The research focuses on several areas:

  • Studying the operation of marine and tropical island ecosystems and their evolution in the face of natural and anthropic forcing on different scales (spatial and temporal).
  • Analysing the evolutionary processes that generate extraordinary tropical marine biodiversity.
  • Monitoring the risks that threaten this biodiversity, to propose conservation, promotion and sustainable management strategies.
  • Observing humans and social structures in these ecosystems, particularly the societal representations associated with the coral reefs and the quantification of societies’ use of tropical marine resources.
Couverture de l'ouvrage "Nouvelle-Calédonie, archipel de corail"

© IRD

Couverture de l'ouvrage "Nouvelle-Calédonie, archipel de corail"

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Numerous resources available

  • A forthcoming book - July

Nouvelle-Calédonie, archipel de corail” (New Caledonia, coral archipelago), a joint publication from IRD and Solaris, edited by Claude Payri, head of the Tropical marine ecology of the Pacific and Indian Oceans laboratory (ENTROPIE).

With 40,000 km2 of reefs and lagoons, and over 15,000 species, New Caledonia is home to the world’s second largest barrier reef. At a time when coral reefs are some of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet, it is essential to preserve this exceptional environmental and cultural heritage, included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Bringing together researchers from various disciplines (natural, human and social sciences) and actors in charge of managing the reefs and lagoons, this work presents the latest state of knowledge on New Caledonia’s coral reefs. It shows the great diversity of environments in connection with the history of the marine environment, as well as the complexity of relationships between the different organisms involved. There is also great attention to how these ecosystems offer essential resources to populations and their role as an essential pillar of Kanak culture. Finally, it examines the capacity of these highly vulnerable environments for resilience in the face of global environmental changes, and presents the measures used to protect them

IRD invites you to check out the “Spotlight on coral reefs” thematic dossier: www.ird.fr/recifs-coralliens

In this space, you can find all of the IRD’s resources: the latest scientific news, a selection of photographs and films, dossiers to read and a calendar!

Download the press pack.