Coral Reefs

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 569–575

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

A response to Maynard et al. (2008)
Comment/Response

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 Contrary to the fears of Grigg (Coral Reefs 11:183–186, 1992), who originally made reference to the Cassandra syndrome due to his concern about the sensationalisation of science, the proposition that coral reefs face enormous challenges from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.

Keywords

Climate change Ocean acidification Corals Fish Bleaching Cassandra syndrome 

References

  1. Albright R, Mason B, Langdon C (2008) Effect of aragonite saturation state on settlement and post-settlement growth of Porites astreoides larvae. Coral Reefs 27:485–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anthony KRN, Connelly S, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2007) Bleaching, energetics, and coral mortality risk: effects of temperature, light, and sediment regime. Limnol Oceanogr 52:716–726Google Scholar
  3. 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 105:17442–17446PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Babcock RC (1991) Comparative demography of three species of scleractinian corals asing age- and size-dependent classifications. Ecol Monogr 61:225–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 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
  6. Berkelmans R (2002) Time-integrated thermal bleaching thresholds of reefs and their variation on the Great Barrier Reef. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 229:73–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berkelmans R, van Oppen MJ (2006) The role of zooxanthellae in the thermal tolerance of corals: a ‘nugget of hope’ for coral reefs in an era of climate change. Proc R Soc Lond B 273:2305–2312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown BE (1997) Coral bleaching: causes and consequences. Coral Reefs 16:S129–S138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bruno JF, Selig ER (2007) Regional decline of coral cover in the Indo-Pacific: timing, extent, and subregional comparisons. PLoS ONE 2. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000711
  10. Coles SL, Brown BE (2003) Coral bleaching—capacity for acclimatization and adaptation. Adv Mar Biol 46:183–223PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Coles SL, Jokiel PL, Lewis CR (1976) Thermal tolerance in tropical versus subtropical Pacific reef corals. Pac Sci 30:159–166Google Scholar
  12. Cooper TF, De’ath G, Fabricius KE, Lough JM (2008) Declining coral calcification in massive Porites in two nearshore regions of the northern Great Barrier Reef. Global Change Biol 14:529–538CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. De’ath G, Lough JM, Fabricius KE (2009) Declining coral calcification on the Great Barrier Reef. Science 323:116–119PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Douglas AE (2003) Coral bleaching—how and why? Mar Pollut Bull 46:385–392PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. FAO (2001) The state of world fisheries and aquaculture 2000. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  16. Fine M, Tchernov D (2007) Scleractinian coral species survive and recover from decalcification. Science 315:1811PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Glynn PW (1996) Coral reef bleaching: facts, hypotheses and implications. Global Change Biol 2:495–509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Glynn PW (2000) Effects of the 1997–98 El Nino-Southern Oscillation on Eastern Pacific corals and coral reefs: an overview. Proc 9th Int Coral Reef Symp 2:1169–1174Google Scholar
  19. Glynn PW, Mate JL, Baker AC, Calderon MO (2001) Coral bleaching and mortality in Panama and Ecuador during the 1997–1998 El Nino-Southern oscillation event: spatial/temporal patterns and comparisons with the 1982–1983 event. Bull Mar Sci 69:79–109Google Scholar
  20. Grigg RW (1992) Coral reef environmental science: truth versus the Cassandra syndrome. Coral Reefs 11:183–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 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 22:551–558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hoegh-Guldberg O (1999) Climate change, coral bleaching and the future of the world’s coral reefs. Mar Freshw Res 50:839–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hoegh-Guldberg O, Jones RJ (1999) Photoinhibition and photoprotection in symbiotic dinoflagellates from reef-building corals. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 183:73–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hoegh-Guldberg O, Salvat B (1995) Periodic mass-bleaching and elevated sea temperatures—bleaching of outer reef slope communities in Moorea, French-Polynesia. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 121:181–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hoegh-Guldberg O, Smith JG (1989) The effect of sudden changes in temperature, light and salinity on the population density and export of zooxanthellae from the reef corals Stylophora pistillata and Seriatopra hystrix. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 129:279–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 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 318:1737–1742PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hughes TP (2000) Geology and ecology of coral reefs: reef evolution by Rachel Wood. Trends Ecol Evol 15:125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hughes TP, Ayre DJ, Connell JH (1992) The evolutionary ecology of corals. Trends Ecol Evol 7:292–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. IPCC (2007) Synthesis report. Contribution of working groups I, II and III to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. In: Team CW, Pachauri RK, Reisinger A (eds) Intergovernmental panel on climate change, 2008, Geneva, Switzerland 104Google Scholar
  30. Jones RJ, Berkelmans R, Oliver JK (1997) Recurrent bleaching of corals at Magnetic Island (Australia) relative to air and seawater. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 158:289–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jones R, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Larkum A, Schreiber U (1998) Temperature induced bleaching of corals begins with impairment to the carbon dioxide fixation mechanism of zooxanthellae. Plant Cell Environ 21:1219–1230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kleypas JA, Langdon C (2006) Coral reefs and changing seawater chemistry, Chapter 5. 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. Geophysical Union, Washington DC, pp 73–110Google Scholar
  33. Kuffner LB, Andersson AJ, Jokiel PL, Rodgers KS, MF T (2008) Decreased abundance of crustose coralline algae due to ocean acidification. Nat Geosci 1:114–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kurihara H, Matsui M, Furukawa H, Hayashi M, Ishimatsu A (2008) Long-term effects of predicted future seawater CO2 conditions on the survival and growth of the marine shrimp Palaemon pacificus. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 367:41–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lasker HR, Coffroth MA (1999) Responses of clonal reef taxa to environmental change. Am Zool 39:92–103Google Scholar
  36. Lesser MP (2007) Coral reef bleaching and global climate change: can corals survive the next century? Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104:5259–5260PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Loya Y, Sakai K, Yamasato K, Nakano Y, Sambali H, Van Woesik R (2001) Coral bleaching: the winners and the losers. Ecol Lett 4:122–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Manzello DP, Kleypas JA, Budd DA, Eakin CM, Glynn PW, Langdon C (2008) Poorly cemented coral reefs of the eastern tropical Pacific: possible insights into reef development in a high-CO2 world. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:10450–10455PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Marshall PA, Baird AH (2000) Bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef: differential susceptibilities among taxa. Coral Reefs 19:155–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Maynard J, Baird A, Pratchett M (2008a) Revisiting the Cassandra syndrome; the changing climate of coral reef research. Coral Reefs 27:745–749CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Maynard J, Anthony K, Marshall P, Masiri I (2008b) Major bleaching events can lead to increased thermal tolerance in corals. Mar Biol 155:173–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mayor DJ, Matthews C, Cook K, Zuur AF, Hay S (2007) CO2-induced acidification affects hatching success in Calanus finmarchicus. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 350:91–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Middlebrook R, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Leggat W (2008) The effect of thermal history on the susceptibility of reef-building corals to thermal stress. J Exp Biol 211:1050–1056PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mumby PJ, Chisholm JRM, Edwards AJ, Andrefouet S, Jaubert J (2001) Cloudy weather may have saved Society Island reef corals during the 1998 ENSO event. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 222:209–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Oliver JK, Berkelmans R, Eakin CM (2009) Coral bleaching in space and time. In: van Oppen MJH, Lough JM (eds) Coral bleaching. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp 21–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Portner HO, Farrell AP (2008) Ecology: physiology and climate change. Science 322:690–692PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Potts DC, Done TJ, Isdale PJ, Fisk DA (1985) Dominance of a coral community by the genus Porites (Scleractinia). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 23:79–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 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
  49. 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 policy document 12/05. Royal Society, LondonGoogle Scholar
  50. Skelly D, Joseph L, Possingham H, Frieidenburg L, Farrugia T, Kinnison M, Hendry A (2007) Evolutionary responses to climate change. Conserv Biol 21:1353–1355PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Szmant AM, Gassman NJ (1990) The effects of prolonged “bleaching” on the tissue biomass and reproduction of the reef coral Montastrea annularis. Coral Reefs 8:217–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Takahashi S, Nakamura T, Sakamizu M, Woesik R, Yamasaki H (2004) Repair machinery of symbiotic photosynthesis as the primary target of heat stress for reef-building corals. Jpn Soc Plant Physiol 25:1–255Google Scholar
  53. 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 and 2005. Coral Reefs. doi:10.1007/s00338-00008-00457-00335
  54. Toscano MA, Liu G, Guch IC, Casey KS, Strong AE, MJ E (2000) Improved prediction of coral bleaching using high-resolution HotSpot anomaly mapping. Proc 9th Int Coral Reef Symp 2:1143–1147Google Scholar
  55. Ulstrup KE, Berkelmans R, Ralph PJ, van Oppen MJH (2006) Variation in bleaching sensitivity of two coral species across a latitudinal gradient on the Great Barrier Reef: the role of zooxanthellae. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 314:135–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Underwood JN, Smith LD, Van Oppen MJ, Gilmour JP (2007) Multiple scales of genetic connectivity in a brooding coral on isolated reefs following catastrophic bleaching. Mol Ecol 16:771–784PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Visser ME (2008) Keeping up with a warming world; assessing the rate of adaptation to climate change. Proc R Soc Biol Sci Ser B 275:649–659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wallace CC (1985) Reproduction, recruitment and fragmentation in nine sympatric species of the coral genus Acropora. Mar Biol 88:217–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Marine StudiesARC Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesSt. LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.Coral Reef Targeted Research ProjectThe University of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia

Personalised recommendations