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Our Precious Coasts

Coral Reefs and Climate Change


Projected increases in carbon dioxide and temperature exceed the conditions under which coral reefs have flourished under the past half-million years (Hughes et al., 2003). Currently 30% of reefs are recorded as in decline, and up to 60% may be in decline by 2030 (Wilkinson, 2002). While coral reefs may not disappear entirely, their composition and diversity may decline and change drastically (Hughes et al., 2003). This, in turn, may with other stressors such as marine pollution increase susceptibility to infestations of invasive species, diseases, algae growth or reduce their resilience further and hence their capacity to support fisheries. The causes of the declines appear to be variable, from overfishing and dredging, disease outbreaks and hurricanes, to El NiƱo-Southern Oscillation induced bleaching episodes and sedimentation and marine pollution (Aronson et al., 2003).