Marine Science Faculty Publications

What Is Happening to the World’s Coral Reefs?

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Book Chapter

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Bleaching, Nutrient pollution, Algal symbiosis, Climate change, Ocean warming, Ozone depletion, Photo-oxidative stress, Ocean acidification, Anthropocene

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Coral reefs are in decline worldwide. Rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations, which are causing ocean acidification and warming oceans, are clearly major threats to the future of coral reefs, but certainly not the only threats. Indeed, the range of threats increases with ever-increasing human populations. The consequences of local and regional activities are vast, including the ever-expanding impacts of environmental pollutants, coastal development, land-use in the watersheds, and even desertification in distant places that result in dust and smoke plumes that cross oceans and carry microbes. If a diversity of coral species and other reef-dwelling organisms is to persist and thrive in warming seas, humans must truly “think globally and act locally” to mitigate the compounding environmental damage that we continue to cause; the consequences of which are amplified by natural events such as major storms, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

What Is Happening to the World’s Coral Reefs?, in S. J. Culler (Ed.), Troubled Waters, Springer, p. 233-252