As the map above demonstrates, coral reefs are primarily distributed in two distinct regions: the Wider Caribbean (Atlantic Ocean) and the Indo-Pacific (from East Africa and the Red Sea to the Central Pacific Ocean).
· The diversity of coral is far greater in the Indo-Pacific, particularly around Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. Many other groups of marine fauna show similar patterns, with a much greater diversity in the Indo-Pacific region.
· Although they possess a smaller number of species, the corals of the Atlantic are still unique, with few common species between the two regions (Spalding et al., 2001).
Mangrove forests cover less than 8% of the worldıs coastline, and comprise of only a few species. Although their distribution is relatively homogenous, there are two distinct regions with completely different floras: the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean (West Africa and the Americas).
· Like coral reefs, the region with the greatest mangrove diversity is Southeast Asia, particularly around the Indonesian Archipelago (Burke et al., 2001).
· Mangroves are vital for coastal protection, water purification and the absorption of carbon dioxide, and provide important breeding and nursing grounds for many commercially valuable fish species. Despite their importance, however, mangrove forests are experiencing increasing pressure from timber industries and conversion to agriculture and aquaculture, particularly shrimp farming.
There are three distinct areas of seagrass diversity in the Pacific region: the Indo-Pacific (areas around Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea); the seas around Japan; and Southwest Australia (Spalding et al., 2002).
· Seagrass beds cover less than 10% of the world's shallow coastal waters, but provide important nursing grounds for many commercial fish species. They also provide coastal protection and water purification, absorb CO2, and stabilise sediments (Spalding et al., 2002).
· Seagrass ecosystems host a rich diversity of species, including several threatened species such as dugongs and seahorses.
· Seagrass beds are under threat from a wide variety of destructive human practices, including dredging for harbours and shipping lanes, fishing by benthic trawling, conversion to aquaculture, coastal pollution, and clearance for beaches and tourist facilities (Spalding et al., 2002).