Coral Reefs

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 1003–1011 | Cite as

Embracing a world of subtlety and nuance on coral reefs

  • Peter J. Mumby


Climate change will homogenise the environment and generate a preponderance of mediocre reefs. Managing seascapes of mediocrity will be challenging because our science is ill prepared to deal with the ‘shades of grey’ of reef health; we tend to study natural processes in the healthiest reefs available. Yet much can be gained by examining the drivers and implications of even subtle changes in reef state. Where strong ecological interactions are discovered, even small changes in abundance can have profound impacts on coral resilience. Indeed, if we are to develop effective early warnings of critical losses of resilience, then monitoring must place greater emphasis on measuring and interpreting changes in reef recovery rates. In terms of mechanism, a more nuanced approach is needed to explore the generality of what might be considered ‘dogma’. A more nuanced approach to science will serve managers needs well and help minimise the rise of mediocrity in coral reef ecosystems.


Resilience Monitoring Management Physical Process 



I thank the organising committee of the ICRS for the invitation to give this plenary. This paper was written on the Blue Note Jazz Cruise. I thank Al Harborne, Rich Aronson and an anonymous reviewer for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biological Sciences and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef ScienceThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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