Explore the world's marine & coastal habitats

Ocean+ Habitats is a living platform providing the world's decision-makers and communities of practice with the best possible global information, knowledge and tools required to manage and conserve ocean ecosystems.

Where are marine and coastal habitats?

Over 70% of the surface of Earth is ocean, comprising highly diverse marine and coastal ecosystems. These ecosystems provide a wide range of essential ecosystem services that support human societies, including our health and economies.

Today, marine and coastal ecosystems are being threatened by irresponsible human activities, such as pollution, coastal and offshore industrial development, and unsustainable or illegal fishing practices. If we are to halt these threats, we need decision-grade data on efforts to conserve, restore and effectively manage important marine ecosystems.

Our ability to track the location and health of marine habitats over time varies across the world, making it challenging to provide an accurate and complete global picture. Yet, this knowledge is essential to meet many of the biodiversity and sustainable development targets set by the international community.

The information provided in the map below remains incomplete in some places of the world. The Ocean+ team is always looking to update these maps as soon as new data becomes available. If we are missing any information for your location, please contact us at oceanplus@unep-wcmc.org.

Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of material on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. * Non-Self-Governing Territory ** Dotted line represents approximately the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir agreed upon by India and Pakistan. The final status of Jammu and Kashmir has not yet been agreed upon by the parties. *** A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

Are we protecting habitats?

As of 2021, less than 8% of the ocean is covered by protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs). These other measures may include areas where conservation is an outcome but not a stated objective, such as some war graves or protected shipwrecks.

In the case of both protected areas and OECMs, the level of protection they afford to marine and coastal habitats varies, as does the degree to which they are effectively governed and managed. However, coverage is not equally distributed across the ocean. Although protected areas and OECMs now cover 18.01% within national waters, coverage in areas beyond national jurisdiction lags behind at 1.18%.

Proportion of habitat within protected and conserved areas

44.99% of 149,886.97 km2

Warm-water corals

49.74% of 224,435.08 km2

Saltmarshes

42.77% of 135,869.55 km2

Mangroves

26.63% of 314,001.94 km2

Seagrasses

29.38% of 15,336.98 km2

Cold-water corals

Global overview of proportion of habitats in protected and conserved areas

The following map visualizes the percentage of each habitat that falls within a protected or conserved area, within each Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This can give insights into regions where habitats need more protection, and how country efforts compare to one another internationally.

Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of material on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. * Non-Self-Governing Territory ** Dotted line represents approximately the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir agreed upon by India and Pakistan. The final status of Jammu and Kashmir has not yet been agreed upon by the parties. *** A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

How are habitats changing?

Globally, coastal and marine habitats are in decline because of numerous threats, including coastal development, overfishing, pollution, and climate change. Nearly 50% of coastal wetlands have been lost over the last 100 years, with up to 90% of remaining wetlands projected to be lost by 2100. Approximately 50% of live coral cover has been lost since the 1870s, and climate change and other drivers have led to accelerated losses in recent decades. Almost 30% of known seagrass area across the globe has been lost due to human activities, and at least 22 of the world’s 72 seagrass species are in decline.

Estimated global change in habitat extent

Loss of
50%

Warm-water corals

50% loss in warm-water coral cover between 1870 and 2019
Loss of
20 - 50%

Saltmarshes

20 - 50% loss in saltmarsh cover between 1850 and 2019
Loss of
20 - 35%

Mangroves

20 - 35% loss in mangrove cover between 1980 and 2010
Loss of
30%

Seagrasses

30% loss in seagrass cover between 1970 and 2000
Loss of
--

Cold-water corals

Unfortunately, there is currently no data for this particular habitat.

Despite current trends, there is hope. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) offers the international community an opportunity to work together to reverse ecosystem fragmentation and degradation, helping to restore the critical ecosystems that humans and biodiversity alike depend on for survival. A recent flagship UNEP report estimates that carefully planned and targeted restoration could help to avoid 60 per cent of expected biodiversity extinctions. To achieve this, the world must deliver on its current commitment to restore at least one billion hectares (an area about the size of China) of degraded land in the next decade, in which marine and coastal areas will play a major role.

Global species composition and status by habitat

While knowledge of ecosystem health globally is still relatively limited, many of the species that comprise these habitats have been assessed through the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Red List assesses the global extinction risk status of species, which helps to prioritize which species need conservation attention and protection more urgently. Accurately estimating how many species are endangered can further help countries to understand the resilience of their ecosystems.

The table below shows the number of habitat-forming species within each habitat group, ordered by their global IUCN Red List status. It also illustrates the total number of species assessed globally for each group. Habitat-forming species are species such as seagrasses, corals and mangroves, which support diverse life by providing shelter or feeding grounds for other species and thereby play an important role in the functioning of an ecosystem.

While most warm-water coral, mangrove and seagrass species have been assessed by the IUCN Red List team, there are still many species of saltmarshes and cold-water corals that have not yet been assessed, with a “Not Evaluated” status.

IUCN Red List logo
WWC Warm-water corals
SM Saltmarshes
M Mangroves
SG Seagrasses
CWC Cold-water corals
Critically endangered icon Critically endangered
Endangered icon Endangered
Vulnerable icon Vulnerable
Near threatened icon Near threatened
Least concern icon Least concern
Data deficient icon Data deficient
Not evaluated icon Not evaluated
Total:
5
25
201
176
297
135
77
916
9
16
17
4
124
8
240
418
3
3
6
5
45
2
15
79
0
1
7
4
44
4
11
71
2
1
2
0
15
15
2153
2188

Disclaimer: These statuses derive from global assessments, and do not necessarily reflect each species’ status by country.

Source: Data adapted from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, version 2021-1.

Last updated: Oct, 2021

How do habitats contribute to human wellbeing?

Habitats such as coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves generate sources of nutrition through fish, provide protection to coastal communities from storms, and contribute to local economies through tourism.

These habitats are not only important for local communities, but also collectively form the foundations of national, regional and international progress toward targets related to human wellbeing, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Targets. These can be explored further in the graphic below.

For more information, please visit our country or regional pages.

Choose one habitat shape file from the list below to download.

Citation

UNEP-WCMC (2021). Ocean+ Habitats [On-line], [insert month/year of the version downloaded]. Available at: habitats.oceanplus.org