Perspective

Coral Reefs

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 745-749

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

  • J. A. MaynardAffiliated withApplied Environmental Decision Analysis CERF Hub, School of Botany, University of Melbourne Email author 
  • , A. H. BairdAffiliated withAustralian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University of North Queensland
  • , M. S. PratchettAffiliated withAustralian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University of North Queensland

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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.

Keywords

Adaptation Climate change Coral reefs Fisheries collapse