Coral Reefs

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 745–749 | Cite as

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

  • J. A. Maynard
  • A. H. Baird
  • M. S. Pratchett


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.


Adaptation Climate change Coral reefs Fisheries collapse 



The authors are indebted to several anonymous reviewers who provided insightful comments on draft versions of the manuscript. This work was supported by grants from the University of Melbourne and the Applied Environmental Decision Analysis CERF Hub to JAM and the ARC to AHB and MSP, and JSPS to AHB.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. A. Maynard
    • 1
  • A. H. Baird
    • 2
  • M. S. Pratchett
    • 2
  1. 1.Applied Environmental Decision Analysis CERF Hub, School of BotanyUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook University of North QueenslandTownsvilleAustralia

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