A report from the U.N. Environment Program says that 75 percent of the coral reefs are under threat from climate change and coastal development.
The UNEP report compiled with dozens of environmental agencies concludes that local pressures from overfishing and pollution complicate threats from rising ocean acidification and overall warming trends.
Coral reefs provide protection to coast lines, bring stable food supplies to coastal communities and deliver revenue to surrounding areas through tourist dollars.
Jane Lubchenco, U.S. undersecretary of commerce for oceans and the administrator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said from Washington the UNEP report makes it clear that coral reefs are under significant threat.
"This report serves as a wake-up call for policy-makers, business leaders, ocean managers and others about the urgent need for greater protection for coral reefs," she said in a statement.
UNEP found that if left unregulated, more than 90 percent of the world's coral reefs will be under threat by 2030 and all of them will be at risk by 2050.
"As the report makes clear, local and global threats, including climate change, are already having significant impacts on coral reefs, putting the future of these beautiful and valuable ecosystems at risk," said Lubchenco.