Abstract

Coral reefs support immense biodiversity and provide important ecosystem services to many millions of people. Yet reefs are degrading rapidly in response to numerous anthropogenic drivers. In the coming centuries, reefs will run the gauntlet of climate change, and rising temperatures will transform them into new configurations, unlike anything observed previously by humans. Returning reefs to past configurations is no longer an option. Instead, the global challenge is to steer reefs through the Anthropocene era in a way that maintains their biological functions. Successful navigation of this transition will require radical changes in the science, management and governance of coral reefs.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the seven institutions that supported this research, in Australia, the Netherlands and the United States. Six of the authors are supported by funding from the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence Program. Other funding support includes the Australian Commonwealth Government, the Netherlands Earth System Science Centre (NESSC), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the US National Science Foundation.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies James Cook University Townsville 4811 Queensland Australia.

    • Terry P. Hughes
    • , Michele L. Barnes
    • , David R. Bellwood
    • , Joshua E. Cinner
    • , Graeme S. Cumming
    • , Janice M. Lough
    •  & Tiffany H. Morrison
  2. Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California San Diego La Jolla California 92093-0244 USA.

    • Jeremy B. C. Jackson
  3. Department of Paleobiology National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian Institution Washington DC 20013 USA.

    • Jeremy B. C. Jackson
  4. National Center for Atmospheric Research Boulder Colorado 80307 USA.

    • Joanie Kleypas
  5. Department of Environmental Sciences Wageningen University PO Box 47 6700 AA Wageningen theNetherlands.

    • Ingrid A. van de Leemput
    • , Egbert H. van Nes
    •  & Marten Scheffer
  6. Australian Institute of Marine Science PMB 3 Townsville 4810 Queensland Australia.

    • Janice M. Lough
  7. Hopkins Marine Station Department of Biology Stanford University Pacific Grove California 93950 USA.

    • Stephen R. Palumbi

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Terry P. Hughes.

Author Contributions All authors contributed to the development of the paper. T.P.H. led the initial planning and writing. J.M.L. and J.K. undertook the climate analysis, I.v.d.L, M.S and E.v.N. carried out the modelling; M.L.B., J.E.C. and T.H.M. led the social science component; and D.R.B., G.S.C., T.P.H., J.B.C.J. and S.R.P. provided the ecological and evolutionary elements.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks T. Gouhier, R. Richmond and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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