Advertisement

Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 11, Supplement 1, pp 215–227 | Cite as

Coral reef ecosystems and anthropogenic climate change

Original Article

Abstract

Coral reef ecosystems are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. In addition to their value in terms of biodiversity, coral reefs provide food and resources for over 500 million people. Despite their importance, coral reefs are declining at a rapid rate (1–2% per year) as a result of a range of local (e.g., overexploitation of fisheries, declining water quality) and global (e.g., global warming and ocean acidification) drivers. Extensive experimental and field evidence suggests that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations of 450 ppm will lead to the loss of coral-dominated reef systems, with the prospect that dangerous levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide for coral reefs were exceeded in 1979 when mass coral bleaching was reported for the first time. The exact response of coral reefs remains uncertain although it is highly unlikely that coral-dominated reef systems will be present in future oceans at the current rate of warming and acidification of the world’s tropical oceans. The loss of these important coastal ecosystems will diminish the resources available to hundreds of millions of people along tropical coastlines. Understanding the impacts on people and industry is an imperative if we are to devise effective systems by which tropical coastal communities are to adapt to rapidly changing tropical coastal environments. Our current understanding of these important issues, however, is in a relatively undeveloped state and must be a priority of future research.

Keywords

Coral reef Climate change Ocean acidification Calcification Marine biodiversity Coastal communities Declining resources Mass coral bleaching 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The author is grateful for the support of Dr. Roberto Iglesias-Prieto and staff at the Unidad Academica Puerto Morelos, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnologıa, Universidad Nacional Auto′noma de Mexico and the Coral Reef Targeted Research Project (http://www.gefcoral.org). He is also grateful to Dr. Clive Wilkinson for comments and suggestions on an earlier draft.

References

  1. Access Economics (2005) Measuring the economic & financial value of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Report by Access Economics Pty Limited for Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, TownsvilleGoogle Scholar
  2. Anthony KR, Kline DI, Diaz-Pulido G, Dove S, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2008) Ocean acidification causes bleaching and productivity loss in coral reef builders. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:17442–17446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baird AH, Marshall PA (1998) Mass bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs 17:376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baird AH, Marshall PA (2002) Mortality, growth and reproduction in scleractinian corals following bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 237:133–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baker AC (2001) Ecosystems—reef corals bleach to survive change. Nature 411(6839):765–766CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Birkeland C (ed) (1997) Life and death of coral reefs. Chapman and Hall, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Blanchon P, Shaw J (1995) Reef drowning during the last deglaciation; evidence for catastrophic sea-level rise and ice-sheet collapse. Geology 23:4–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blanchon P, Eisenhauer A, Fietzke J, Liebetrau V (2009) Rapid sea-level rise and reef back-stepping at the close of the last interglacial highstand. Nature 458:881–884CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown BE (1997) Coral bleaching: causes and consequences. Coral Reefs 16:S129–S138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bruno JF, Selig ER (2007) Regional decline of coral cover in the Indo-Pacific: timing, extent, and subregional comparisons. PLoS ONE 2(8):e711CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Buddemeier RW, Fautin DG (1993) Coral bleaching as an adaptive mechanism—a testable hypothesis. Bioscience 43(5):320–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cesar H, Burke L, Pet-Soede L (2003) The economics of worldwide coral reef degradation. Cesar Environmental Economic Consulting, ArnhemGoogle Scholar
  13. Church JA, White NJ (2006) A 20th century acceleration in global sea-level rise. Geophys Res Lett 33:L01602CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Costanza B, d’Arge R, de Groot R, Farber S, Grasso M, Hannon B, Limburg K, Naeem S, O’Neill RV, Paruelo J (1998) The value of the worlds ecosystem services and natural capital. Ecol Econ 25:3–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cressey D (2007) Arctic melt opens Northwest Passage. Nature 449:267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Davies PJ, Hopley D (1983) Growth fabrics and growth-rates of Holocene reefs in the Great Barrier-Reef. J Aust Geol Geophys 8(3):237–251Google Scholar
  17. De’ath G, Lough JM, Fabricius KE (2009) Declining coral calcification on the Great Barrier Reef. Science 323:116–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Done TJ, Whetton P, Jones R, Berkelmans R, Lough J, Skirving W, Wooldridge S (2003) Global climate change and coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. In: Department of Natural Resources, Mining (ed) Final report to the State of Queensland Greenhouse Taskforce. Department of Natural Resources and Mining, TownsvilleGoogle Scholar
  19. Donner SD, Skirving WJ, Little CM, Oppenheimer M, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2005) Global assessment of coral bleaching and required rates of adaptation under climate change. Global Change Biol 11(12):2251–2265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Emanuel K (2005) Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature 436(7051):686–688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gattuso JP, Allemand D, Frankignoulle M (1999) Photosynthesis and calcification at cellular, organismal and community levels in coral reefs: a review on interactions and control by carbonate chemistry. Am Zool 39(1):160–183Google Scholar
  22. Glynn PW (1979) Climatic cycles may affect reef growth. Smithson Res Notes 4(4)Google Scholar
  23. Glynn PW (1988) El-Niño Southern Oscillation 1982–1983—Nearshore population, community, and ecosystem responses. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 19:U309Google Scholar
  24. Glynn PW (1991) Coral-Reef Bleaching in the 1980s and possible connections with global warming. Trends Ecol Evol 6(6):175–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Glynn PW, Dcroz L (1990) Experimental-evidence for high-temperature stress as the cause of El-Niño-coincident coral mortality. Coral Reefs 8(4):181–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Glynn PW, Peters EC, Muscatine L (1985) Coral tissue microstructure and necrosis: relation to catastrophic coral mortality in Panama. Dis Aquatic Org 1:29–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Goreau TJ, Hayes RL (1994) Coral bleaching and ocean hot-spots. Ambio 23(3):176–180Google Scholar
  28. Goulet TL (2006) Most corals may not change their symbionts. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 321:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Goulet TL, Coffroth MA (2003) Stability of an octocoral-algal symbiosis over time and space. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 250:117–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Graham NA, Wilson SK, Jennings S, Polunin NV, Robinson J, Bijoux JP, Daw TM (2007) Lag effects in the impacts of mass coral bleaching on coral reef fish, fisheries and ecosystems. Conserv Biol 21(5):1291–1300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Grigg R, Epp D (1989) Critical depth for the survival of coral islands: effects on the Hawaiian archipelago. Science 243:638–641CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Guinotte JM, Buddemeier RW, Kleypas JA (2003) Future coral reef habitat marginality: temporal and spatial effects of climate change in the Pacific basin. Coral Reefs 22(4):551–558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hales S, Weinstein P, Woodward A (1999) Ciguatera (fish poisoning), El Niño, and Pacific sea surface temperatures. Ecosyst Health 5:20–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hoegh-Guldberg O (1999) Climate change, coral bleaching and the future of the world’s coral reefs. Mar Freshw Res 50(8):839–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hoegh-Guldberg O (2000) Global Climate Change and the thermal tolerance of corals. Galaxea JCRS 2:1–11Google Scholar
  36. Hoegh-Guldberg O (2004) Coral reefs in a century of rapid environmental change. Symbiosis 37(1–3):1–31Google Scholar
  37. Hoegh-Guldberg O (2005) Low coral cover in a high-CO2 world. J Geophys Res 110:C09S06CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hoegh-Guldberg H, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2004) Biological, economic and social impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef. World Wide Fund for NatureGoogle Scholar
  39. Hoegh-Guldberg O, Salvat B (1995) Periodic mass bleaching of reef corals along the outer reef slope in Moorea, French Polynesia. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 121:181–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hoegh-Guldberg O, Smith GJ (1989) The effect of sudden changes in temperature, irradiance and salinity on the population density and export of zooxanthellae from the reef corals Stylophora pistillata (Esper 1797) and Seriatopora hystrix (Dana 1846). Exp Mar Biol Ecol 129:279–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hoegh-Guldberg H, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Stout DK, Cesar H, Timmerman A (2000) Peril in pacific: biological. Economic and social impacts of climate change on Pacific Coral Reefs. Study for Greenpeace International, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  42. Hoegh-Guldberg O, Jones RJ, Ward S, Loh WK (2002) Ecology—is coral bleaching really adaptive? Nature 415(6872):601–602CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hoegh-Guldberg O, Mumby PJ, Hooten AJ, Steneck RS, Greenfield P, Gomez E, Harvell CD, Sale PF, Edwards AJ, Caldeira K, Knowlton N, Eakin CM, Iglesias-Prieto R, Muthiga N, Bradbury RH, Dubi A, Hatziolos ME (2007) Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification. Science 318(5857):1737–1742. doi: 10.1126/science.1152509 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Holbrook SJ, Schmitt RJ, Stephens JS (1997) Changes in an assemblage of temperate reef fishes associated with a climate shift. Ecol Appl 7(4):1299–1310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Hughes TP (1994) Catastrophes, phase shifts, and a large-scale degradation of Caribbean coral reef. Science 265:1547–1551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hughes TP, Baird AH, Bellwood DR, Card M, Connolly SR, Folke C, Grosberg R, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Jackson JBC, Kleypas J, Lough JM, Marshall P, Nystrom M, Palumbi SR, Pandolfi JM, Rosen B, Roughgarden J (2003) Climate change, human impacts, and the resilience of coral reefs. Science 301(5635):929–933CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Hughes TP, Rodrigues MJ, Bellwood DR, Ceccarelli D, Hoegh-Guldberg O, McCook L, Moltschaniwskyj N, Pratchett MS, Steneck RS, Willis B (2007) Phase shifts, herbivory, and the resilience of coral reefs to climate change. Curr Biol 17:360–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, S. Solomon, D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor, H.L. Miller, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USAGoogle Scholar
  49. Jameson SC, McManus JW, Spalding MD (1995) State of the reefs: regional and global perspectives. International Coral Reef Initiative, Washington DC, USAGoogle Scholar
  50. Jones R, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Larkum AWL, Schreiber U (1998) Temperature induced bleaching of corals begins with impairment of dark metabolism in zooxanthellae. Plant Cell Environ 21:1219–1230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kleypas JA, Langdon C (2006) Coral reefs and changing seawater chemistry. In: Phinney J, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Kleypas J, Skirving W, Strong AE (eds) Coral reefs and climate change: science and management. AGU Monograph Series, Coastal and Estuarine Studies. American Geophysical Union, Washington DC, USA, pp 73–110Google Scholar
  52. Kleypas JA, Buddemeier RW, Archer D, Gattuso JP, Langdon C, Opdyke BN (1999a) Geochemical consequences of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on coral reefs. Science 284(5411):118–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Kleypas JA, McManus JW, Menez LAB (1999b) Environmental limits to coral reef development: where do we draw the line? Am Zool 39(1):146–159Google Scholar
  54. Leggett J, Pepper WJ, Swart RJ (1992) Emissions scenarios for IPCC: an update. In: Houghton JT, Callander BA, Varney SK (eds) Climate change 1992: the supplementary report to the IPCC scientific assessment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 71–95Google Scholar
  55. Lough JM (2000) 1997–98: unprecedented thermal stress to coral reefs? Geophys Res Lett 27(23):3901–3904CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Meier MF, Dyurgerov MB, Rick UK, O’Neel S, Pfeffer WT, Anderson RS, Anderson SP, Glazovsky AF (2007) Glaciers dominate eustatic sea-level rise in the 21st century. Science 317:1064–1067CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) Ecosystems and human well-being: synthesis. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  58. Muscatine L, Goiran C, Land L, Jaubert J, Cuif JP, Allemand D (2005) Stable isotopes (delta C-13 and delta N-15) of organic matrix from coral skeleton. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102(5):1525–1530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Nakamura T, van Woesik R (2001) Water-flow rates and passive diffusion partially explain differential survival of corals during the 1998 bleaching event. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 212:301–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Odum HT, Odum EP (1955) Trophic structure and productivity of a windward coral reef community on Eniwetok Atoll. Ecol Monogr 25(3):291–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Pandolfi JM (2005) Are US coral reefs on the slippery slope to slime? (vol 307, pp 1725, 2005). Science 308(5729):1742–1743Google Scholar
  62. Parmesan C, Yohe G (2003) A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems. Nature 421(6918):37–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Petit JR, Jouzel J, Raynaud D, Barkov NI, Barnola J-M, Basile I, Bender M, Chappellaz J, Davisk M, Delaygue G, Delmotte M, Kotlyakov VM, Legrand M, Lipenkov VY, Lorius C, Pepin L, Ritz C, Saltzman E, Stievenard M (1999) Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420, 000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica. Nature 399:429–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Poloczanska E, Babcock R, Butler A, Hobday AJ, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Kunz TJ, Matear RJ, Milton D, Okey TA, Richardson AJ (2007) Climate change and Australian marine life. Oceanogr Mar Biol Annu Rev 45:407–478Google Scholar
  65. Pratchett MS, Munday PL, Wilson SK, Graham NAJ, Cinner JE, Bellwood DR, Jones GP, Polunin NVC, Mcclanahan TR (2008) Effects of climate-induced coral bleaching on coral-reef fishes—ecological and economic consequences. Oceanogr Mar Biol 46:251–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Przeslawski R, Ahyong S, Byrne M, Worheide G, Hutchings P (2008) Beyond corals and fish: the effects of climate change on noncoral benthic invertebrates of tropical reefs. Global Change Biol 14:2773–2795CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Raven J, Caldeira K, Elderfield H, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Liss P, Riebesell U, Shepherd J, Turley C, Watson A (2005) Ocean acidification due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Royal Society Report. Royal Society, London, UKGoogle Scholar
  68. Reaka-Kudla ML (1996) The global biodiversity of coral reefs: a comparison with rain forests. In: Reaka-Kudla ML, Wilson DE, Wilson EO (eds) Biodiversity II: understanding and protecting our biological resources. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, pp 83–108Google Scholar
  69. Roeckner E, Arpe K, Bengtsson L, Christoph M, Claussen M, Dumenil L, Esch M, Giorgetta M, Schlese U, Schulzweida U (1996) The atmospheric general circulation model ECHAM4: model description and simulation of present-day climate. MPI Report 218. Hamburg. http://www-pcmdi.llnl.gov/projects/modeldoc/amip1/26mpi_ToC_b.html
  70. Royal Society (2009) The Coral Reef Crisis: Addressing the Threats of Global Warming and Ocean Acidification. Statement prepared by J. E. N. Veron, David Attenborough, Ken Caldeira, Ann Clarke, James Crabbe, Andreas Fischlin, Wendy Foden, Rachel Garthwaite, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Simon Harding, Rachel Jones, Tim Lenton, David Obura, Paul Pearce-Kelly, Dirk Peterson, Peter Read, Chris Reid, Callum Roberts, Alex Rogers, Charles Sheppard Mark Spalding, Mary Stafford-Smith, Kristan Teleki, John Turner and Philip Willamson (in press)Google Scholar
  71. Sabine CL, Feely RA, Gruber N, Key RM, Lee K, Bullister J, Wanninkhof R, Wong C, Wallace D, Tilbrook B (2004) The oceanic sink of anthropogenic CO2. Science 305:367–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Silverman J, Lazar B, Cao L, Caldeira K, Erez J (2009) Coral reefs may start dissolving when atmospheric CO2 doubles. Geophys Res Lett 36:L05606CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Smith SV, Kinsey DW (1976) Calcium-carbonate production, coral-reef growth, and sea-level change. Science 194(4268):937–939CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Spalding MD, Ravilious C, Green EP (2001) World atlas of coral reefs. Prepared at the UNEP world conservation monitoring centre. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, USAGoogle Scholar
  75. Spurgeon J, Roxburgh T (2005) A Blueprint for maximising sustainable coastal benefits: the American Samoa case study. In: 10th international coral reef symposium, Okinawa, Japan, 2005Google Scholar
  76. Steffensen JP, Andersen KK, Bigler M, Clausen HB, Dahl-Jensen D, Fischer H, Goto-Azuma K, Hansson M, Johnsen SJ, Jouzel J, Masson-Delmotte V, Popp T, Rasmussen SO, Rothlisberger R, Ruth U, Stauffer B, Siggaard-Andersen ML, Sveinbjornsdottir AE, Svensson A, White JWC (2008) High-resolution Greenland ice core data show abrupt climate change happens in few years. Science 321:680–684CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Steig EJ, Brook EJ, White JWC, Sucher CM, Bender ML, Lehman SJ, Morse DL, Waddington ED, Clow GD (1998) Synchronous climate changes in Antarctica and the North Atlantic. Science 282:92–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Steig EJ, Schneider DP, Rutherford SD, Mann ME, Comiso JC, Shindell DT (2009) Warming of the Antarctic ice-sheet surface since the 1957 International Geophysical Year. Nature 457:459–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Strong AE, Kearns EJ, Gjovig KK (2000) Sea surface temperature signals from satellites—an update. Geophys Res Lett 27(11):1667–1670CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Tanzil J, Brown B, Tudhope A, Dunne R (2009) Decline in skeletal growth of the coral Porites lutea from the Andaman Sea, South Thailand, between 1984, 2005. Coral Reefs 28(2):519–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Toscano MA, Liu G, Guch IC, Casey KS, Strong AE (2000) Improved prediction of coral bleaching using high-resolution HotSpot anomaly mapping. In: 9th international coral reef symposium, Bali, Indonesia, pp 1143–1147Google Scholar
  82. Troëng S, Lindén O (1998) Environmental economics of coral reef destruction in Sri Lanka. Ambio 27:627–634Google Scholar
  83. UNFCCC (1992) The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. http://unfccc.int/essential_background/convention/items/2627.php (accessed August 13, 2009)
  84. Veron JEN, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Lenton TM et al (2009) The coral reef crisis: the critical importance of <350 ppm CO2. Mar Pollut Bull 58:1428–1436Google Scholar
  85. Walther GR, Post E, Convey P, Menzel A, Parmesan C, Beebee TJC, Fromentin JM, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Bairlein F (2002) Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature 416(6879):389–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Ward S, Harrison PJ, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2002) Coral bleaching reduces reproduction of scleractinian corals and increases susceptibility to future stress. In: 9th international symposium for reef studies, Bali, Indonesia, pp 1123–1128Google Scholar
  87. Westmacott S, Teleki K, Wells S, West JM (2000) Management of bleached and severely damaged reefs. IUCN, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  88. Wilkinson CR (1999) Global and local threats to coral reef functioning and existence: review and predictions. Mar Freshw Res 50(8):867–878CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Wilkinson C (2004) Status of coral reefs of the world: 2004. Global coral reef monitoring network. Australian Institute of Marine Science, TownsvilleGoogle Scholar
  90. Wilkinson C (2008) Status of coral reefs of the world: 2008. Global coral reef monitoring network. Australian Institute of Marine Science, TownsvilleGoogle Scholar
  91. Wilkinson CR, Hodgson G (1999) Coral reefs and the 1997–1998 mass bleaching and mortality. Nat Res 35:16–25Google Scholar
  92. Wilkinson C, Linden O, Cesar H, Hodgson G, Rubens J, Strong AE (1999) Ecological and socioeconomic impacts of 1998 coral mortality in the Indian Ocean: an ENSO impact and a warning of future change? Ambio 28(2):188–196Google Scholar
  93. Wilson SK, Burgess SC, Cheal AJ, Emslie M, Fisher R, Miller I, Polunin NVC, Sweatman HPA (2008a) Habitat utilization by coral reef fish: implications for specialists vs. generalists in a changing environment. J Anim Ecol 77:220–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Wilson SK, Fisher R, Pratchett MS, Graham NAJ, Dulvy NK, Turner RA, Cakacaka A, Polunin NVC, Rushton SP (2008b) Exploitation and habitat degradation as agents of change within coral reef fish communities. Global Change Biol 14:2796–2809CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Witze A (2008) Losing Greenland. Nature 452:798–802CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Yonge CM, Nichols AG (1931) Studies on the physiology of corals: V. The effect of starvation in light and in darkness on the relationship between corals and zooxanthellae. Scientific Report of the Great Barrier Reef ExpeditionGoogle Scholar
  97. Zhang J, Lindsay R, Steele M, Schweiger A (2008) What drove the dramatic retreat of Arctic sea ice during summer 2007. Geophys Res Lett 35:L11505CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Global Change InstituteThe University of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia

Personalised recommendations