Physical and Biological Drivers of Coral-Reef Dynamics

  • Richard B. AronsonEmail author
  • William F. Precht
Part of the Coral Reefs of the World book series (CORW, volume 6)


Coral-reef ecosystems are declining worldwide, compromising their capacity to provide ecosystem services that include feeding hundreds of millions of people and protecting shorelines from erosion. The anthropogenic causes of reef degradation are complex and operate over a broad range of scales and hierarchical levels, but accelerating climate change and its collateral impacts are currently the strongest drivers. Deleterious trends in local-scale, ecological processes that occur within reef communities, such as declining herbivory and increasing eutrophication, generally play a subsidiary role at present, because their effects are overwhelmed by the impacts of climate change on many reefs. That does not mean local-scale ecology is irrelevant. Solving environmental problems at one scale or level will by default leave problems at the other scale as the new primary problems. If humanity is able to control climate change at the global level, then community-level processes will in general become limiting. Both local and global impacts must be mitigated and reversed if we are to save coral reefs.


Acropora Caribbean Climate change Coral bleaching Coral disease Marine protected areas MPAs White-band disease 



We thank M. E. S. Bracken, J. F. Bruno, N. L. Hilbun, D. K. Hubbard, L. Kaufman, L. T. Toth, S. Thatje, and R. van Woesik for advice and discussion. R. M. Moody and L. T. Toth drafted the figures. Our research on coral reefs has been supported over the years by the Smithsonian Institution, the National Geographic Society, Northeastern University’s Three Seas Program, and the U.S. National Science Foundation (most recently grant OCE-1535007 to R.B.A.). This is contribution number 75 from the Institute for Research on Global Climate Change at the Florida Institute of Technology.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesFlorida Institute of TechnologyMelbourneUSA
  2. 2.Division of Marine and Coastal ProgramsDial Cordy and Associates, Inc.MiamiUSA

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