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Diversity 2016, 8(2), 12;

Recent Advances in Understanding the Effects of Climate Change on Coral Reefs

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville QLD 4811, Australia
Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, New York University Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Department of Marine Science, University of Texas, Port Aransas, TX 78373-5015, USA
Department of Environment and Agriculture, Curtin University, Bentley WA 6102, Australia
Marine Science Program, Department of Parks and Wildlife, Kensington WA 6151, Australia
Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia, Crawley WA 6069, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Michael Wink
Received: 16 January 2016 / Revised: 25 April 2016 / Accepted: 11 May 2016 / Published: 18 May 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Coral Reef Biodiversity and Conservation)
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Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the persistence of coral reefs. Sustained and ongoing increases in ocean temperatures and acidification are altering the structure and function of reefs globally. Here, we summarise recent advances in our understanding of the effects of climate change on scleractinian corals and reef fish. Although there is considerable among-species variability in responses to increasing temperature and seawater chemistry, changing temperature regimes are likely to have the greatest influence on the structure of coral and fish assemblages, at least over short–medium timeframes. Recent evidence of increases in coral bleaching thresholds, local genetic adaptation and inheritance of heat tolerance suggest that coral populations may have some capacity to respond to warming, although the extent to which these changes can keep pace with changing environmental conditions is unknown. For coral reef fishes, current evidence indicates increasing seawater temperature will be a major determinant of future assemblages, through both habitat degradation and direct effects on physiology and behaviour. The effects of climate change are, however, being compounded by a range of anthropogenic disturbances, which may undermine the capacity of coral reef organisms to acclimate and/or adapt to specific changes in environmental conditions. View Full-Text
Keywords: adaptation; acclimatization; thermal bleaching; ocean acidification; novel ecosystem; distorted food webs adaptation; acclimatization; thermal bleaching; ocean acidification; novel ecosystem; distorted food webs

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Hoey, A.S.; Howells, E.; Johansen, J.L.; Hobbs, J.-P.A.; Messmer, V.; McCowan, D.M.; Wilson, S.K.; Pratchett, M.S. Recent Advances in Understanding the Effects of Climate Change on Coral Reefs. Diversity 2016, 8, 12.

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