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Rethinking Ecosystem Resilience in the Face of Climate Change

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PLoS Biology

Public Library of Science

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      Most cited references 27

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      Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems.

      All ecosystems are exposed to gradual changes in climate, nutrient loading, habitat fragmentation or biotic exploitation. Nature is usually assumed to respond to gradual change in a smooth way. However, studies on lakes, coral reefs, oceans, forests and arid lands have shown that smooth change can be interrupted by sudden drastic switches to a contrasting state. Although diverse events can trigger such shifts, recent studies show that a loss of resilience usually paves the way for a switch to an alternative state. This suggests that strategies for sustainable management of such ecosystems should focus on maintaining resilience.
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        Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification.

        Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is expected to exceed 500 parts per million and global temperatures to rise by at least 2 degrees C by 2050 to 2100, values that significantly exceed those of at least the past 420,000 years during which most extant marine organisms evolved. Under conditions expected in the 21st century, global warming and ocean acidification will compromise carbonate accretion, with corals becoming increasingly rare on reef systems. The result will be less diverse reef communities and carbonate reef structures that fail to be maintained. Climate change also exacerbates local stresses from declining water quality and overexploitation of key species, driving reefs increasingly toward the tipping point for functional collapse. This review presents future scenarios for coral reefs that predict increasingly serious consequences for reef-associated fisheries, tourism, coastal protection, and people. As the International Year of the Reef 2008 begins, scaled-up management intervention and decisive action on global emissions are required if the loss of coral-dominated ecosystems is to be avoided.
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          Climate change, human impacts, and the resilience of coral reefs.

          The diversity, frequency, and scale of human impacts on coral reefs are increasing to the extent that reefs are threatened globally. Projected increases in carbon dioxide and temperature over the next 50 years exceed the conditions under which coral reefs have flourished over the past half-million years. However, reefs will change rather than disappear entirely, with some species already showing far greater tolerance to climate change and coral bleaching than others. International integration of management strategies that support reef resilience need to be vigorously implemented, and complemented by strong policy decisions to reduce the rate of global warming.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
            Author notes

            The Perspective section provides experts with a forum to comment on topical or controversial issues of broad interest.

            Journal
            PLoS Biol
            plos
            plosbiol
            PLoS Biology
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
            1544-9173
            1545-7885
            July 2010
            July 2010
            27 July 2010
            : 8
            : 7
            2910654
            20668536
            10-PLBI-PS-6393R2
            10.1371/journal.pbio.1000438
            Côté, Darling. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
            Counts
            Pages: 5
            Categories
            Perspective
            Ecology
            Ecology/Conservation and Restoration Ecology
            Ecology/Ecosystem Ecology
            Ecology/Global Change Ecology

            Life sciences

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