Coral Reefs of the Gulf

Volume 3 of the series Coral Reefs of the World pp 163-170


Extreme Physical Factors and the Structure of Gulf Fish and Reef Communities

  • David A. FearyAffiliated withSchool of the Environment, University of Technology Email author 
  • , John A. BurtAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, New York University-Abu Dhabi
  • , Georgenes H. CavalcanteAffiliated withCoastal Zone and Waterways Management Section, Environment Department, Dubai Municipality
  • , Andrew G. BaumanAffiliated withSchool of Marine and Tropical Biology, ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University

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Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth, making up <0.5% of the marine environment by area but containing nearly a third of all marine species, most of which are endemic to reefs (Moberg and Folke 1999). Despite their economic and ecological importance, coral reefs are being increasingly degraded by both human and natural stressors. Over-exploitation, destructive fishing methods, eutrophication and sedimentation resulting from land-use changes, among other factors, has resulted in the loss of over 19% of the world’s coral reef area in the past several decades (Wilkinson 2008). However, climate change, mainly driven by increases in atmospheric CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels, represents the greatest threat to the future of coral reefs (Harley et al. 2006; Wilkinson 2008). Atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased from ∼280 ppm around 1700 AD to >380 ppm today (Brohan et al. 2006), a rate of increase over 100 times faster than experienced in the past 650,000 year (Siegenthaler et al. 2005), and potentially beyond the capacity of reef fauna to adapt and recover (Przeslawski et al. 2008).