Future Scenarios: A Review of Modelling Efforts to Predict the Future of Coral Reefs in an Era of Climate Change

  • S. D. DonnerEmail author
  • S. F. Heron
  • W. J. Skirving
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 233)


Episodes of mass coral bleaching across the world since the 1980s have led to widespread coral mortality and concern about the viability of warm water coral reef ecosystems during a period of rapid climate warming. A number of recent studies have used the output of global climate models to estimate the effects of ocean warming and, to a lesser extent, ocean acidification on future likelihood of coral bleaching and the fate of coral reef ecosystems. These studies generally conclude that mass coral bleaching could become an annual event by mid-century at many of the world’s coral reefs, without any adaptation of corals and their symbionts. The fidelity of such future projections depends on issues including model resolution, model ability to simulate modes of climate variability such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, and the representation of the role of past climate experience and possible means of acclimatisation and adaptation on coral susceptibility to bleaching. This chapter includes an introduction to global climate modelling, a review of the efforts to date to simulate the effects of climate change on coral bleaching, a case study on the Great Barrier Reef, and a discussion of future research needs.



The manuscript contents are solely the opinions of the author(s) and do not constitute a statement of policy, decision, or position on behalf of NOAA or the US Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Coral Reef WatchCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.ReefSense Pty Ltd.TownsvilleAustralia

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