Gorgonian coral Great Mayan Reef in Riviera Maya of Caribbean Mexico. Photo: Getty

The condition of the world’s second-largest coral system, the Mesoamerican Reef stretching from the Yucatan Peninsula to Central America, has taken a turn for the worse and faces further threats from climate change, according to a report by a group of scientists.

Extending nearly 1,000 km / 620 miles from the northern tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula toward the Bay Islands in northern Honduras, the Mesoamerican Reef is second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, according to Reuters, which reported the study.

The Great Mayan Reef, as it is also known, is vital to countless marine species and is among the underwater ecosystems under pressure from global warming, the scientists say.

The reef experienced its first decline in overall health since 2006, according to a study of 286 coral reef sites in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

“For the first time in 12 years of tracking the health of the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, the overall condition of this vital ecosystem has deteriorated,” said the report by the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative.

The Mayan Reef’s Health Index showed that the coral’s overall rating had fallen to 2.5 in 2018 from 2.8 in its previous rating report in 2016.