, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 569-575
Date: 02 Jun 2009

Climate change and coral reefs: Trojan horse or false prophecy?

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Abstract

Maynard et al. (Coral Reefs 27:745–749, 2008a) claim that much of the concern about the impacts of climate change on coral reefs has been “based on essentially untested assumptions regarding reefs and their capacity to cope with future climate change”. If correct, this claim has important implications for whether or not climate change represents the largest long-term threat to the sustainability of coral reefs, especially given their ad hominem argument that many coral reef scientists are guilty of “popularising worst-case scenarios” at the expense of truth. This article looks critically at the claims made by Maynard et al. (Coral Reefs 27:745–749, 2008a) and comes to a very different conclusion, with the thrust and veracity of their argument being called into question. Contrary to the fears of Grigg (Coral Reefs 11:183–186, 1992), who originally made reference to the Cassandra syndrome due to his concern about the sensationalisation of science, the proposition that coral reefs face enormous challenges from climate change and ocean acidification has and is being established through “careful experimentation, long-term monitoring and objective interpretation”. While this is reassuring, coral reef ecosystems continue to face major challenges from ocean warming and acidification. Given this, it is an imperative that scientists continue to maintain the rigour of their research and to communicate their conclusions as widely and clearly as possible. Given the shortage of time and the magnitude of the problem, there is little time to spare.

Communicated by Environment Editor Prof. Rob van Woesik