Are coral reefs victims of their own past success?

Willem Renema, John M. Pandolfi, Wolfgang Kiessling, Francesca R. Bosellini, James Klaus, Chelsea Korpanty, Brian R. Rosen, Nadiezhda Santodomingo, Carden C. Wallace, Jody M. Webster, Kenneth G. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

As one of the most prolific and widespread reef builders, the staghorn coral Acropora holds a disproportionately large role in how coral reefs will respond to accelerating anthropogenic change. We show that although Acropora has a diverse history extended over the past 50 million years, it was not a dominant reef builder until the onset of high-amplitude glacioeustatic sea-level fluctuations 1.8 million years ago. High growth rates and propagation by fragmentation have favored staghorn corals since this time. In contrast, staghorn corals are among the most vulnerable corals to anthropogenic stressors, with marked global loss of abundance worldwide. The continued decline in staghorn coral abundance and the mounting challenges from both local stress and climate change will limit the coral reefs' ability to provide ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1500850
JournalScience advances
Volume2
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

Keywords

  • anthropogenic stress
  • climate change
  • coral
  • ecology
  • staghorn coral

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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    Renema, W., Pandolfi, J. M., Kiessling, W., Bosellini, F. R., Klaus, J., Korpanty, C., Rosen, B. R., Santodomingo, N., Wallace, C. C., Webster, J. M., & Johnson, K. G. (2016). Are coral reefs victims of their own past success? Science advances, 2(4), e1500850. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1500850