Multiple stressors and ecological complexity require a new approach to coral reef research

Linwood H. Pendleton, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Chris Langdon, Adrien Comte

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Ocean acidification, climate change, and other environmental stressors threaten coral reef ecosystems and the people who depend upon them. New science reveals that these multiple stressors interact and may affect a multitude of physiological and ecological processes in complex ways. The interaction of multiple stressors and ecological complexity may mean that the negative effects on coral reef ecosystems will happen sooner and be more severe than previously thought. Yet, most research on the effects of global change on coral reefs focus on one or few stressors, pathways or outcomes (e.g., bleaching). Based on a critical review of the literature, we call for a regionally targeted strategy of mesocosm-level research that addresses this complexity and provides more realistic projections about coral reef impacts in the face of global environmental change. We believe similar approaches are needed for other ecosystems that face global environmental change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Issue numberMAR
StatePublished - 2016


  • Climate change
  • Coral reefs
  • Mesocosm-level research
  • Multiple stressors
  • Ocean acidification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Ocean Engineering


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