Coral Health and Disease

pp 463-484

Coral Reefs and Projections of Future Change

  • Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

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Any attempt to project the future is inherently daunting. The importance of answering this question, however, has been emphasized by the observation that coral reefs are in an accelerating pattern of decline. Given the support that coral reefs provide to critical industries and human societies that line tropical coastlines, the rapid decline in the health of coral reefs could potentially cost billions of dollars per year and displace tens of millions of people. The current decline is being attributed to a wide array of causes including coastal development, overexploitation of fish stocks, destructive fishing, agricultural runoff, marine-based pollution and climate change. These influences are subsequently manifesting themselves as an increased incidence of syndromes arising from stress and disease. In previous chapters, this volume has dealt in detail with the range of syndromes and disease that are currently affecting coral reefs. The intention of the current chapter is to attempt to integrate this information in the context of how reefs might change over the next 20–50 years. Much of the direction of this chapter will be set by climate change, which, in concert with other stresses is a major threat to the distribution of healthy coral reefs and to the people and societies that depend on them.