The eight countries surrounding the Persian Gulf – Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – share a valuable ecosystem that, like many other places in the world, is being seriously degraded by a human impacts. Since the oil boom of the 1970s there has been massive economic and population growth throughout the Gulf, and resultant rapid expansion of urbanised seascapes. This has had severe impacts on coastal and marine ecosystems, particularly the unique coral reefs of the Gulf which contain corals that have adapted to the highest sea temperatures experienced by corals anywhere in the world. The Gulf corals provide a significant opportunity for science and can serve as a model for the rest of the world’s reefs, where Gulf-like temperatures are not expected to occur until the end of the century. If coral reef fauna are capable of acclimating* or even adapting to such naturally extreme temperatures, there may be hope for the continued persistence of reefs globally under future climate change. The conservation and protection of Gulf reefs is essential to safeguard these unique ecosystems into the future.