If the world's coral reefs die off completely, their loss is likely to create hunger in countries that rely on the reefs to attract and sustain fish, economic decline in places that rely on the allure of reefs for tourism and a gap in the world's biodiversity. Ecologist Roger Bradbury wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times that collective effects would be devastating.
As a result of ocean acidification, pollution and over-fishing, the world's coral reefs are breaking up. This is eventually bound to leave only a hard, algae-covered ocean floor, wrote Bradbury. Such conditions are capable of hosting only jellyfish and microbes.
Coral reefs form the base of the ocean's food chain according to an Associated Press article published in USA Today. Fish prefer to live near them for shelter. Without reefs, the fish are apt to fail to survive as well, owing to the loss of crucial spawning and feeding grounds. According to Kent Carpenter, director of a global census of marine species, the absence of coral reefs would set in motion a destructive domino effect among the world's marine species. A number of shellfish, including oysters, also depend on coral reefs to survive in many parts of the world.