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Poverty and Reefs

1.2 The global extent of coral reefs

Coral reefs are found in tropical waters throughout the world and cover an estimated 600,000 km2, of which 284,300 km2 occur in near-surface shallow waters close to the coastline of over 100 countries (Bryant et al., 1998; Spalding et al., 2001, see Figure 1). The greatest cover of shallow reef occurs in the South Pacific, followed by Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, Middle East, Caribbean and finally the Atlantic (Table 1). In terms of the relative importance of the coast to people living in these regions, Figure 2 indicates that in Southeast Asia, South Pacific, parts of South Asia, East Africa, and the Caribbean high proportions of the population are living in coastal areas. Where significant proportions of the coastline are bordered by coral reefs, such as Southeast Asia, Eastern Africa and the South Pacific (Table 1), the extent of interaction with reefs is likely to be greatest. Furthermore, in regions of high population density, such as Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean, the number of people likely to be interacting and dependent on coral reefs will also be high. It has been estimated that almost half a billion people live within 100 km of a coral reef, and most of these are living in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean (Figure 3).
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