12th International Coral Reef Symposium

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We invite you to join hundreds of scientists from around the world in endorsing a Consensus Statement urging governments to take action for the preservation of coral reefs for the benefit of present and future generations.

The Consensus Statement (below) was drafted by a working group of eminent scientists, brought together under the auspices of The Center for Ocean Solutions, to address the topic of climate change impacts on coral reefs.

To build a large base of support in preparation for the public launch of the statement (during the opening ceremony of the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, on July 9th, in Cairns, Australia), please click HERE to join other scientists from around the world by adding your name to the list of endorsees.


Steve Palumbi, PhD
Center for Ocean Solutions
Stanford University, California, USA

Robert H. Richmond, PhD
President, International Society for Reef Studies
University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA

Terry P. Hughes, PhD
Convenor, 12th International Coral Reef Symposium
James Cook University, Australia

Consensus Statement on Climate Change and Coral Reefs

The international Coral Reef Science Community calls on all governments to ensure the future of coral reefs, through global action to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and via improved local protection of coral reefs. Coral reefs are important ecosystems of ecological, economic and cultural value yet they are in decline worldwide due to human activities. Land-based sources of pollution, sedimentation, overfishing and climate change are the major threats, and all of them are expected to increase in severity.

Changes already observed over the last century:

  • Approximately 25-30% of the world’s coral reefs are already severely degraded by local impacts from land and by over-harvesting.
  • The surface of the world’s oceans has warmed by 0.7°C, resulting in unprecedented coral bleaching and mortality events.
  • The acidity of the ocean’s surface has increased due to increased atmospheric CO2.
  • Sea-level has risen on average by 18cm.

By the end of this century:

  • CO2 emissions at the current rate will warm sea surface temperatures by at least 2-3°C, raise sea-level by as much as 1.7 meters, reduce ocean pH from 8.1 to less than 7.9, and increase storm frequency and/or intensity. This combined change in temperature and ocean chemistry has not occurred since the last reef crisis 55 million years ago.

Other stresses faced by corals and reefs:

  • Coral reef death also occurs because of a set of local problems including excess sedimentation, pollution, habitat destruction, and overfishing.
  • These problems reduce coral growth and vitality, making it more difficult for corals to survive climate changes.

Future impacts on coral reefs:

  • Most corals will face water temperatures above their current tolerance.
  • Most reefs will experience higher acidification, impairing calcification of corals and reef growth.
  • Rising sea levels will be accompanied by disruption of human communities, increased sedimentation impacts and increased levels of wave damage.
  • Together, this combination of climate-related stressors represents an unprecedented challenge for the future of coral reefs and to the services they provide to people.

Across the globe, these problems cause a loss of reef resources of enormous economic and cultural value. A concerted effort to preserve reefs for the future demands action at global levels, but also will benefit hugely from continued local protection.

Click HERE to view the list of endorsees.





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ARC Centre of Excellence International Society for Coral Reef Studies James Cook University International Society for Coral Reef Studies