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Coral Reefs Under Climate Change and Ocean Acidification: Challenges and Opportunities for Management and Policy

Annual Review of Environment and Resources

Annual Reviews

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      Most cited references 144

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      Ecological responses to recent climate change.

      There is now ample evidence of the ecological impacts of recent climate change, from polar terrestrial to tropical marine environments. The responses of both flora and fauna span an array of ecosystems and organizational hierarchies, from the species to the community levels. Despite continued uncertainty as to community and ecosystem trajectories under global change, our review exposes a coherent pattern of ecological change across systems. Although we are only at an early stage in the projected trends of global warming, ecological responses to recent climate change are already clearly visible.
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        Diversity in tropical rain forests and coral reefs.

        The commonly observed high diversity of trees in tropical rain forests and corals on tropical reefs is a nonequilibrium state which, if not disturbed further, will progress toward a low-diversity equilibrium community. This may not happen if gradual changes in climate favor different species. If equilibrium is reached, a lesser degree of diversity may be sustained by niche diversification or by a compensatory mortality that favors inferior competitors. However, tropical forests and reefs are subject to severe disturbances often enough that equilibrium may never be attained.
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          Historical overfishing and the recent collapse of coastal ecosystems.

          Ecological extinction caused by overfishing precedes all other pervasive human disturbance to coastal ecosystems, including pollution, degradation of water quality, and anthropogenic climate change. Historical abundances of large consumer species were fantastically large in comparison with recent observations. Paleoecological, archaeological, and historical data show that time lags of decades to centuries occurred between the onset of overfishing and consequent changes in ecological communities, because unfished species of similar trophic level assumed the ecological roles of overfished species until they too were overfished or died of epidemic diseases related to overcrowding. Retrospective data not only help to clarify underlying causes and rates of ecological change, but they also demonstrate achievable goals for restoration and management of coastal ecosystems that could not even be contemplated based on the limited perspective of recent observations alone.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            Annual Review of Environment and Resources
            Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour.
            Annual Reviews
            1543-5938
            1545-2050
            November 2016
            November 2016
            : 41
            : 1
            : 59-81
            10.1146/annurev-environ-110615-085610
            © 2016

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