, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 745-749
Date: 19 Oct 2008

Revisiting the Cassandra syndrome; the changing climate of coral reef research

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Abstract

Climate change will be with us for decades, even with significant reductions in emissions. Therefore, predictions made with respect to climate change impacts on coral reefs need to be highly defensible to ensure credibility over the timeframes this issue demands. If not, a Cassandra syndrome could be created whereby future more well-supported predictions of the fate of reefs are neither heard nor acted upon. Herein, popularising predictions based on essentially untested assumptions regarding reefs and their capacity to cope with future climate change is questioned. Some of these assumptions include that: all corals live close to their thermal limits, corals cannot adapt/acclimatize to rapid rates of change, physiological trade-offs resulting from ocean acidification will lead to reduced fecundity, and that climate-induced coral loss leads to widespread fisheries collapse. We argue that, while there is a place for popularising worst-case scenarios, the coral reef crisis has been effectively communicated and, though this communication should be sustained, efforts should now focus on addressing critical knowledge gaps.

Communicated by Environment Editor Prof. Rob van Woesik