It is Earth's most biodiverse marine ecosystem. It is almost six million square kilometers in size. It is the Coral Triangle, an area that supports over 600 reef-building coral species across Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.
The planet's coral reefs are estimated to provide $300 billion in value each year, giving hundreds of millions of people food, jobs and protection. And the medicinal value of these "rainforests of the sea" has yet to be fully explored.
But they are losing in a fight against humanity -- overfishing, pollution, coastal development and ocean acidification are taking their toll. According to the first global reef exctinction study, one-third of reef-building coral species face extinction.
"Perhaps 30 years ago, the biggest misconception people had was that the oceans are so huge that man could never pollute them nor could we ever over-exploit life in the sea," said Capt. Philip G. Renaud, the Executive Director of the Living Oceans Foundation. "That has changed now, but many of our bad habits unfortunately haven’t changed fast enough."
Now, Jürgen Freund and Stella Chiu-Freund are having a closer look at the situation. The Australia-based husband and wife team have been commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Global Photo Network to go on an 18-month photojournalistic expedition to investigate, according to their blog, "the connectivity between the wildlife and peoples of the region, and the threats they face." Known as the Freund Factory, the pair is one of the world's top underwater photographic teams.
- Sign a petition sponsored by the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium urging policymakers to help protect coral reefs by committing to low carbon economic growth
- Visit the Coral Triangle Photo Expedition blog
- Visit the Living Oceans Foundation
- Enter the Dead Zone (April 20, 2009)
- Coral Reefs: Here Now, Gone Tomorrow? (April 3, 2009)
- 13.7 BILLION YEARS EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Philip Renaud, Executive Director, Living Oceans Foundation (Part 1 of 5) (March 15, 2009)
- Oceanic Acid Trip (March 10, 2009)
- Google Earth Goes Deep (February 5, 2009)
- Indonesia Creates Asian Reef Conservation Group (November 24, 2008)
- Hundreds of Species Discovered on Great Barrier Reef (September 21, 2008)
- One-Third of Coral Reefs Face Extinction (July 11, 2009)