Are coral reefs victims of their own past success?

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


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)
Article numbere1500850
JournalScience Advances
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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